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Hi I'm Michael James

I'm a father and a husband. I'm a social scientist. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I studied Psychology at University and have since gone into doing social and public health research, working with statistics to answer scientific questions about the social determinants of health. I'm currently working on a PhD about the role of people's social and economic circumstances in how mental health and smoking and drinking behaviours develop over the lifecourse. I come from a family of three children and grew up in Nottingham, England. I am now married, living in Glasgow, and I have three daughters of my own. I enjoy spending most of my spare time with my family, and being involved with the Church, but as often as I can find some time beyond that I like to read books, listen to music, play the guitar and write songs.

Why I am a Mormon

I grew up in the Church, and although I had always believed what I had been taught, as a teenager I had to decide for myself if it was what I wanted. I had to decide if I was willing to follow the standards the Church teaches and whether I was willing to devote time to serve in the Church. I would not still be an active member of the Church if I had not found out for myself that it is true. I tried daily to pray and read the scriptures, and to learn the teachings of the Church. I tried to apply in my life the principles that I learnt. Eventually, I decided to ask God in prayer if the Book of Mormon was true. I remember receiving a distinct impression as I prayed: "Why are you asking? You already know it is true." As I looked within myself I realised that this was correct. I already felt within my heart that all of the principles and teachings of the Church were true, that they came from God, and that I would be happier living them. That conviction within my heart got there because I had consistently read, or been taught, the words of God and then followed them. As I lived the Gospel, piece by piece, day by day, almost imperceptibly, the Spirit of God bore witness to me that what I was doing and the way I was living was right, and over time this had built up into a heart-felt conviction of truth. I still have this conviction now and as I continue to prayerfully study and apply the word of God it gets stronger and deeper, day by day and year by year. I know that the Gospel is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, just like the Bible. I know that this is God's Church on the Earth, and that it has been restored in our time so that we might have all of the blessings that God desires for us, including and especially the opportunity to be united with our families forever.

How I live my faith

I live my faith most importantly in my family life. I believe my family can be forever, that those relationships can last beyond the grave and into eternity. My family is my priority. I work in my job to ensure they are provided for and, outside of work, I consider enriching and strengthening my relationships with them to be one of the best ways I can use my time. I have also served in the Church in a variety of ways and I try to help in any way I am asked. I was a Missionary for the Church in Switzerland, where, for two years, I taught others on a day-to-day basis about our beliefs and practices. Since that time I have also been involved in organising social activities for young single adults in the Church, in keeping local financial and membership records, and in various teaching and leadership responsibilities. I currently serve as the Bishop of our local ward. This role is something like a pastor or a minister in other churches. I preside over a congregation of around 100 members. I am often involved in speaking or teaching during our Sunday meetings and I try to be available for private, individual counselling, striving to help people overcome personal adversities or weaknesses. I also manage the church's local welfare assistance programme. I believe strongly that my faith has benefited my life a great deal, and I try to be open in discussing this with anyone who expresses an interest, in the hope that they might also benefit from what we have.

Who is the Mormon prophet today?

Michael James
President Thomas S. Monson. We call him President because he also presides over the Church. He speaks to the whole Church twice a year in a general conference of the Church. Other Church leaders, including our modern-day Apostles, also speak in these conferences. The conferences are broadcast by satellite all over the world and translated into many different languages. If you would like to read or listen to what he, or other Church leaders, have been saying in recent years then recordings and transcripts can be accessed at: http://lds.org/conference/display/0,5234,23-1,00.html I look forward to these conferences every 6 months. I download all the talks to my iPod and listen to them regularly as I walk to work. I know that the speakers are inspired of God. Listening to them has deepened my understanding of the Gospel and reminded me often of things that I could be doing better. I know that President Monson speaks for the Lord. I feel the Spirit of God confirm this to me whenever I listen to him speak or read his words. Show more Show less

Why do Mormons perform baptisms for the dead?

Michael James
Baptism is an ordinance, or ceremony, by which a person enters into a covenant, or agreement, with God. Basically, the person agrees to keep God's commandments and God agrees to grant the person Eternal Life. We believe that baptism is essential, that a person cannot be saved without baptism. However, many of God's children have lived and died on the Earth without ever hearing about Jesus Christ, much less having the opportunity to be baptised. We believe in a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for the salvation of all His children. He has authorised faithful members of His church to perform proxy baptims in temples for those who have died without baptism. In a proxy baptism a living person takes the place of the deceased person so that the ordinance can be performed. We do not believe that performing this ordinance for someone who has died forces them to enter into a covenant with God, but that it gives them the opportunity to do so, an opportunity that they lacked in life. In this way Heavenly Father has planned to eventually allow everyone who has ever lived an opportunity to enter into a covenant with Him and be saved. Some might wonder why we do this for other Christians who were baptised in their respective Christian churches while they were alive. This is perhaps best understood by analogy to another ordinance which we perform by proxy for those who have died. This ordinance is marriage, which is also a kind of covenant or agreement. We believe that marriage can be forever, that is, that it can last beyond the grave, but that this is only possible if the marriage is performed with God's authority to seal, or ratify it. We believe that this authority of God, which we call the Priesthood, is only available within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Many of our ancestors were married in life by civil authorities but did not have an opportunity to be married with God's authority. Therefore we perform this ordinance by proxy for them, so that they might have the opportunity for their marriage to last forever. This authority is similarly necessary for baptism; if we wish to enter into a covenant with God we need his approval; and while many of our Christian ancestors were baptised in other churches while they were alive this was done without that priesthood authority. We perform baptisms by proxy for our Christain ancestors so that they can enter into a covenant with God under the proper authority. Show more Show less

Why don’t women hold the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How do Mormon women lead in the Church?

Michael James
In order to understand this one should first understand the importance of the family in our Church. We believe that families, consisting of a man and a woman married to each other and their children, can last forever. These families have a central role in God's plan for us. They help us to learn what we need to, in order to return and live with Him. Men and women have different but complementary roles within the family. Fathers are to provide for and preside over their families. They hold the priesthood and use it to serve their families as well as others in the Church. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children, meaning the day-to-day activities of raising their children, ensuring they are loved, cared for, and taught to live good lives. Men and women help one another in these responsibilities as equal partners. It should also be understood that gender is an essential part of who we are, not just in our mortal, physical bodies, but in our spirits also. We were male and female before we came to earth, and we will still be male and female when we leave this life. Men and women are different and God's plan designed for them to come to earth and form families where each could learn the specific lessons they needed in order to become like God. The different roles that fathers and mothers hold within the family are part of God's design. One is not deemed to be of more value than the other. Both are essential. They are different but complementary. The fulfillment of these roles, adapted to individual circumstances as needed, allows for both men and women to learn those things needful for them to return to God. Holding the priesthood is part of the father's role. Although this generally entails service and often leadership in the Church, a man's primary priesthood responsibility lies within his family. Women do not hold the priesthood in the Church holding the priesthood is not part of their role. God has directed that only men should hold the priesthood. This by no means indicates that women are not important within the Church, nor does it mean that they do not serve or hold leadership positions. Women are frequently called on to serve and lead in various positions throughout the Church. Again, these positions are somewhat different to the ways in which men are called to serve or lead. The roles are different yet complementary. Some of the more common ways in which women serve and lead within the Church are in the Primary, Young Women's and Relief Society organisations. The Primary organisation is aimed at teaching the gospel to the children of the Church. It does this through Sunday lessons, pitched at their age specific level of understanding, and activities throughout the week. The Young Women's organisation is similar but aimed at the teenage girls of the Church, helping to ensure that they progress and mature spiritually, as well as physically. The Relief Society is for adult women in the Church and is one of the largest women's organisations worldwide. It is a sisterhood, just as the priesthood is a brotherhood. Women care for each other and organise themselves to engage in charitable service as local needs and circumstances allow. Women preside over the each of these organisations at the local, national and global level. Show more Show less

Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith?

Michael James
No, we worship God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We do believe that Joseph Smith was called by God to be a Prophet in modern times. We often speak of Joseph with a great deal of respect and love, and with reverence for his sacred mission to restore God's Church once again to the Earth. This attitude is sometimes mistaken for worship. Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that our good feelings towards Joseph stem from the fact that the truths and principles he restored have brought us happiness. Because of Joseph we understand better than before our relationship to our Heavenly Father, we understand God's plan for us, and we better understand Christ's sacrifice for us. Through Joseph's work we have the Book of Mormon and other volumes of scripture which help us learn of God and especially of Christ. Through Joseph the priesthood authority of God was restored to the earth by which we can be baptised and receive a forgiveness of our sins and by which we can be joined together in family relationships that will last beyond the grave. Joseph's mission was to restore truth. He did this and we are grateful to him. We praise him for it, because without him we would be left to flounder in darkness, to find our own way, and we would not know how best to worship our God or our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Show more Show less

How can faith in Jesus Christ influence us in our marriages and family relationships? in our friendships?

Michael James
Faith in Jesus Christ means that we believe what Jesus Christ taught. It means that we believe His teachings enough to follow them in our own lives. It means that we believe we can be forgiven, and that we can be healed, whatever our mistakes or problems might be. It means having confidence that someone with the power to help us, also loves us and wants to help us. Christ's teachings focus on love, mercy, and forgiveness. Following these principles can help us when our family or friends, either inadvertently or deliberately, offend us, or irritate us. We can try to be patient, tolerant, kind and forgiving as Christ would be. We can also take comfort in the willingness of our family or friends to forgive our own mistakes, faults and weaknesses. Following Christ engenders an attitude of caring for one another, in which it is ok to not be perfect yet; we recognise that we all have our weaknesses and we try to help each other overcome them. That is the kind of community we try to have at Church, and that is the kind of feeling we are all trying to develop within our families. More than this though, faith in Christ can help us most when we do recognise faults or failings within ourselves that may be hurting our loved ones. Christ gives us the power to tackle those failings, and the hope and assurance that we can overcome them with his help. Similarly, if our loved ones have faults that are causing us pain, we know that Christ can help them to overcome their weaknesses. However we might have hurt each other, Christ can heal those wounds, heal our relationships, and help us to live in love and happiness together. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe about "eternal life?"

Michael James
We make a distinction between eternal life and immortality. Immortality means to live forever, to die no more. Eternal life on the other hand means more than this. It means to live the kind, or type, of life that God lives, to be like Him. We believe that Jesus Christ offers immortality to all mankind; He overcame death through His Resurrection, and so we will all be restored to our bodies after death and live forever. Eternal life refers to how we live forever. The atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to overcome our sins and imperfections, to change our hearts, and eventually become as God is, and live as God does. The Saviour said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." We consider it crucial to come to know God and Jesus Christ, to know what they are like, to know their characteristics and attributes. By coming to know them, we can then emulate them. As we strive to be like them, we understand them more perfectly, and we prepare ourselves for eternal life. Show more Show less

What is the Relief Society?

Michael James
The Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world. It was organized by God via revelation to Joseph Smith in 1842 as a response to the desire of some of the women in the Church to do more to help their communities. Today all adult women in the Church are members of the Relief Society. They meet every Sunday alongside our other Church meetings, and often hold other activities during the week. The Sunday classes are aimed at strengthening the spirituality, families and righteousness of the members, and most of the Relief Society's activities are directed in some way or another towards providing relief to those in need. The activities of the Relief Society can be as wide and varied as the needs of the people it serves. The Relief Society is led locally by a president who is assigned to that responsibility via revelation to local priesthood leaders. The Relief Society president works closely with other local priesthood leaders to determine the needs of the people (groups or individuals) and organize responses to help meet those needs. She and the sisters that she leads will often be instrumental in such work, and the vital role of the Relief Society should be held in the highest esteem. Show more Show less