What Is a Church Community?
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Hi I'm Gary

I'm a second-generation member of the LDS church, grateful for the decision my parents made to join this church.

About Me

Besides spending time with my family, I also enjoy cars, computers and gadgets in general. I'm kind of a nut when it comes to using computer speadsheets — something I've used professionally for many years. I'm grateful for my dear wife and our three wonderful children. Even though we all have our struggles, it's great to be in my 50's and see our grown-up kids making good decisions in their lives.

Why I am a Mormon

I've had way too many experiences where I've felt the Spirit of God testifying to my heart that Christ has restored the fullness of his teachings and saving power to the earth through living prophets and apostles in the "latter days". Reading and studying not just the Bible, but also the Book of Mormon and the words of living prophets ... it becomes clear that God is in this work. There are still questions for which I don't have answers, but that's one reason God expects us to have faith. Being a "Mormon" has blessed me and my family in countless and lasting ways.

How I live my faith

Life is hectic and demanding, so I'm glad there are God-given principles of truth to anchor my life and guide the important decisions that come along. One of those principles that stands out for me is mercy. It's way too easy to misjudge people and circumstances and so I'm glad Jesus taught us to extend mercy, patience and forgiveness to others. I certainly need those things myself!

What is a ward/stake/branch?

Gary
A ward or branch is just a local congregation of the Church. Branches are usually smaller than wards. Each congregation is led by a Bishop in a ward or a Branch President, but there are lots of other leaders, teachers, secretaries and committees. Everyone who serves does so voluntarily, and receives service from others in turn. By teaching and serving one another, we learn the principles of the Gospel much more effectively. A stake is just a group of wards and branches — often from about 5 to 12 congregations. The "stake president" and other leaders lead and serve as a resource to the leaders and members of the wards and branches. See Isaiah 33:20 and 54:2 to see where the prophet Isaiah predicted that the in the latter days God's people would be like a tent, held secure by stakes. One of the coolest things about wards and branches is that they are defined geographically. Anyone can go to http://maps.lds.org and type in an address to find out what local congregation corresponds to that address. The genious of this is that it often results in us going to Church with — and performing service for — people we might not normally choose to associate with. Why is this good? It helps us to develop tolerance and Christ-like love in ways that TALKING about tolerence would never come close to. One twist on the geographic nature of wards and branches is that there are also sometimes special "language-based" congregations, or congregations designated for unmarried young adults ("young single adults") thus improving the ability of these congregations to meet their members needs. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe about family?

Gary
It's tempting to believe that the Church's emphasis on family is an effort to appeal to the "warm and fuzzy" image it might create, or to hark back to 1950's "Leave It to Beaver" values. But it is actually very doctrinally-based. An emphasis on family has always been part of God's plan. Or perhaps instead of saying “God’s plan” I should say “our Heavenly Father’s plan for His children”. You see, we believe that when Jesus taught his disciples to pray to "Our Father” (Mt 6:9, Lk 11:2) it was because the God of whom Jesus is God’s son is actually the Father of the spirits of all human beings. Some would argue that only converted Christians should be called the children of God, and I agree that there is certainly a special sense in which we become children of Christ when we are born again. But it sure looks to me as if New Testament Christians thought of ALL men as God’s children. In Paul’s sermon on Mars’ Hill he refers to all of his listeners as the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). And in the Book of Hebrews the author refers to God as “the Father of spirits” (Heb 12:9). So that is one reason Latter-day Saints are focused on family: we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God and that each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents. Another important reason for our family-centered focus is that we recognize that God designed life to be the result of the union of a father and a mother. It seems to me that the very nature of procreation in mortality naturally affirms the importance of families, and that God intends for each child to have a father and a mother. And it’s not just about how we get into this life, but also about providing for, and nurturing and teaching children. Mothers and fathers make different but equally-important contributions to the raising and nurture of children. “Viva le difference!” :) Of course not every family will have this ideal, but the fact that there IS such an ideal speaks to the importance of committed marriages, and of perfect sexual fidelity within marriage. Mormons don't have a corner on this belief, and we're far from perfect in adhering to it. But we firmly believe that sexual intimacy belongs within marriage, and a big reason for that is that it protects our sacred responsibility as parents to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children. Show more Show less

What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' attitude regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage?

Gary
We don't fully understand why people are sexually attracted to those of the same gender. I suspect there are a variety of causes. However, we believe that acting upon those desires runs counter to God's plan and purposes. Mormons believe that every living soul had a pre-mortal existence as a spirit son or daughter of God, and that one purpose of this life is to overcome life's challenges and adversity and prepare to return to the presence of our eternal Father and Mother in Heaven. I believe that one reason it takes a man and a woman to conceive a child is that God intends for the children resulting from that union to have a father AND a mother — two complimentary role models — to nurture and raise them. Same-sex relationships can't provide this. So we prefer not to encourage and model norms that will lead future generations away from the path of father-mother parenting. I don't know if same-sex couples can have as fulfilling of a relationship in this life as heterosexual couples, but since scripture forbids it, and nature dictates that they will not have children of their own, I cannot help but have some doubts about that. Logical reasoning aside, the bottom-line answer is that scripture and living prophets have told us that same-sex relations are not approved of God. This doesn't make people who feel this attraction sinners any more than it makes anyone who is tempted a sinner... until we give in to the temptation. My heart goes out to those who struggle with these desires! Show more Show less