What Is a Church Community?

The video player could not be built.

Do you want to chat with a missionary?

We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Start a chat or call us at 1-888-537-6600.

Hi I'm Ben Jones

Mormon convert, adoptive father of 3, father of 3, grandfather of 6, stepfather of 3, step-grandfather of 13.

About Me

I program computers for a living. I started out in computer graphics in 1976 when it was not a household word. Originally I wanted to do computer graphic movies but that was about 19 years before Pixar made their first feature film so I ended up doing flight simulation instead. Later I got into analyzing computer programs and generating web pages from them. More recently I was using supercomputers to analyze data for the US government. I married a woman with three half grown kids. I adopted them and then we had three more together. That really helped cement the family together as the older kids loved being big brothers and sisters to the little ones. She died when our youngest was 18. I remarried and acquired three step children in their thirties and 10 now 13 step grand children. Two of my children now have 3 children between them as well. One of my daughters is now like a sister to the step-daughter who introduced me to her mother. I love choral singing. I served in the Mormon Tabernacle choir for 4 years 1987-1991 when I lived in Salt Lake City. My wife and I now sing with the Mormon Choir of Washington DC.

Why I am a Mormon

I was raised Methodist. My parents were very devout, very involved in service to those around them. I gained my knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by reading a 10-volume children's Bible but rejected religion by the time I went off to college because it seemed to bear little resemblence to what I had read in the Bible. After I received my master's degree, I moved to Salt Lake City to take a job with a computer graphics company. My mother told me to "watch out for those Mormons." I joked that I was going to become one. After several years, I started attending a Unitarian Church because I felt like I needed something to do on Sunday. Then I married a woman who had been a Mormon but had dropped out because of her divorce and was now attending the Episcopal Church. My parents first words to her when I introduced her over the phone were, "You are the answer to our prayers." We were married in the Episcopal Church and my wife persuaded me to join the choir. I found myself singing a lot of the same anthems my parents had sung in the Methodist Church choir. I began to be touched by them. A year later on Christmas morning, a month before I adopted my wife's children, the oldest girl had gotten into a spat with her mother and had been sent to her room. Her brothers were really put out with her for "ruining Christmas". Out of the blue I said, "Well today we are celebrating Christ coming into the world to forgive us our sins, so I think we ought to forgive her." They looked at me as if to say, "What planet are you from?" but shortly afterwards, their sister apologized and we had a wonderful Christmas. Over the next several months I felt something growing inside of me that I'd never felt before to the point that I finally felt I should stand up and be counted and got confirmed a member of the Episcopal Church. Three months later, that same girl, who was now 16, decided she wanted to be a Mormon again. My wife admitted that she did too, that she knew within two months of marrying me that she wanted to be back in the Church but didn't have the nerve to tell me for fear of scaring me off. I asked, "What kind of a hold do THESE PEOPLE have on you after four years outside the Church?" She explained that every week when she got up to do the lay reading in the Episcopal Church and saw the blank looks on the faces in the congregation, she realized that many of them didn't have a clue. She said she understood the Scriptures as a Mormon, not as an Episcopalian. We talked for hours. I didn't see how I could ever be a Mormon but she asked if I'd at least read a book on the subject, called "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder" It explained the doctrines of the Mormon Church so well that within a week I was ready to be baptized. Although my parents did not fully understand my decision, they always attended church with us when they came to visit and were very impressed. Shortly before my mother died, 5 years after I joined the church, she said to me, "If this church is true, I want to be baptized." A few months after my mother died, I was accepted into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

How I live my faith

Faith is something I live every day. I pray in the morning and evening and over meals. I treat all people with respect because they are all sons and daughters of God, even those who don't know that they are. I have accepted numerous callings in the Church, such as Boy Scout leader, printer, computer specialist, counselor to the Bishop. They have all been wonderful opportunities to step outside of myself and deal with people I might not otherwise have been interested in. For example, as a scout leader, I dealt with boys I would have avoided when I was their age just because their interests were so different from mine. Everywhere that I have lived or visited, I've sought out the nearest Mormon Church and found immediate acceptance. I've continued to read many books by members of the Church, which have strengthened my testimony and I often look for opportunties to tell others about the Church. I've also done much volunteer work outside of the Church, following in my parents footsteps.

What is a ward/stake/branch?

Ben Jones
A ward is a geographical subdivision in the Church presided over by a bishop and two counselors. A stake is a geographical collection of as many as twelve wards, presided over by a stake president and two counselors. A branch is essentially a ward getting started in an area where there are few members of the Church. We generally don't pick what ward we should attend but rather attend the ward in whose geographical boundaries we reside. The idea is to bloom where we are planted. Wards usually consist of no more than 100 families, the idea being to have a large percentage of a given ward directly involved in the life of the ward as leaders, teachers, singers, etc. and so that a bishop and his counselors can personally know everyone in their ward. If a ward gets to be much larger, it is divided along geographic lines into two wards, which may meet in the same building at different times. Sometimes three or four wards may meet in the same building and overlap their times somewhat. That is, one ward may be having sacrament meeting while another ward will be using the classrooms for Sunday School. If necessary, new ward buildings will be constructed as the Church continues to grow, using funds supplied by the entire Church. Sometimes, there are special wards for singles, for the deaf, or for various language groups. Twice a year we have stake conferences where people from all across the stake attend special services on Saturday and Sunday, with speakers and choir drawn from wards all across the stake. From time to time, apostles or other general authorities of the Church will speak at stake conferences and also meet with stake leaders. There will be other stake activities throughout the year. Sometimes stakes will put on musical theater productions, drawing their casts from all across the stake. Sometimes there will be "roadshows" where individual wards will put on skits to perform to other parts of the stake. Each stake has a "high council" of twelve men drawn from the various wards, who then visit other wards within the stake on a monthly basis, sometimes bringing members of other wards, especially prospective or returned missionaries to give talks during those ward visits. When a stake grows to more than, say twelve wards, it is also subdivided along geographic lines. When I lived in Utah, where 70 percent of the population is Mormon, my entire stake occupied about 1/3 of a square mile. In Maryland where I now reside, my stake is about 60 miles long and 20 miles wide. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe about the Bible? Do they regard it as Holy Scripture and the word of God?

Ben Jones
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God -- 8th Article of Faith. There are many mysterious passages in the Bible, for which traditional Christianity has no explanation, which are illuminated by the Book of Mormon and by the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. This fact was brought home to me by a book that my sister sent when I first joined the Church. "Spurgeon's Devotional Bible" was the King James Bible re-arranged according to a reading schedule, such as you might find in the back of a Protestant hymnal and interspersed with the commentaries of a famous 19th century Baptist minister named Charles Spurgeon. It had an index where you could look up passages by chapter and verse. Many of the passages in the Bible that are significant to Mormons had commentaries that completely glossed over meanings that were now obvious to me as a Mormon. Other passages were left out entirely! Spurgeon's introduction said that many passages in the Bible were unnecessary to read, and were therefore left out of his book. A few examples: James 2:14-20 talks about the importance of works to show that you truly have faith and concludes that: "faith without works is dead". Spurgeon's commentary says "We are justified by faith alone but not a faith which is alone and without works". To which my reaction was, "Duh!" 1 Peter 3:18-20 talks about how Jesus preached "to the spirits in prison.” We believe that the Gospel is preached to those who did not have a real opportunity to accept it in this life and that ordinances such as baptism for the dead may be performed on their behalf in the Temple. Spurgeon's commentary said, “This passage nobody understands, though some think they do.” 1 Corinthians 15:29 mentions the practice of baptism for the dead. St Paul was saying that if there was no resurrection, as some were claiming, then why baptize for the dead, if they rise not? Spurgeon's commentary talks about how as one believer dies, another convert fills his place, totally glossing over what St Paul said. Ezekiel 37:16-20 talks about writing upon the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph and then bringing the two sticks together. Spurgeon left out this passage entirely. We believe that the stick of Judah is the Bible while the stick of Joseph is the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi’s father Lehi explains that they were descendents of Joseph. Isaiah 29:11-14 talks about a book that is sealed that will be delivered to the learned who cannot read it because it is sealed, which will then be delivered to the unlearned. We believe that this is talking about the Book of Mormon, delivered to the unlearned prophet Joseph Smith. Spurgeon left out the entire chapter. Genesis 49:8-12 is Jacob's blessing to his son Judah, which Spurgeon says is obviously a prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ through the line of Judah. Genesis 49:22-26 is Jacob's blessing of his son Joseph. It is equally long and talks about how Joseph's descendants are like branches running over a wall and prevailing to the utmost bounds of the everalasting hills. The Book of Mormon describes people who were descendants of Joseph, who fled Jerusalem shortly before it was destroyed by Babylon in 600 BC, and sailed across the ocean to what we believe is now Central America. Spurgeon's commentary on Joseph's blessing is that Jacob was gushing over in enthusiasm for his favorite son. In John 10:16, Jesus talks about having other sheep which are not of this fold who must hear his voice. Spurgeon says that he is referring to the Gentiles but in the Book of Mormon, Jesus descends out of heaven to visit the descendants of Joseph after his resurrection and ascension at Jerusalem. Now, in saying this, I do not mean to imply that Spurgeon was deliberately covering these things up in the Bible. I am sure he was merely interpreting it as best he understood it. Like the religious leaders in Jesus' time, he too thought he had things all figured out. Show more Show less

Why are only some Mormons allowed into temples? Is there something secret going on in Mormon Temples? What goes on in Mormon Temples?

Ben Jones
There is a series of questions the bishop and stake president must ask every two years before a member of the Church can have permission to enter the Temples. They are all quite reasonable. Here is a brief paraphrase of them: Do you believe in Heavenly Father, his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost? Do you sustain the president of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator as well as his counselors and members of the quorum of Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain your local Church leaders and attend your Church meetings? Are you a full tithe payer, that is, do you 10 percent of your income to the Church? Do you keep the Word of Wisdom, that is, abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea? Do you keep the law of Chastity, that is, have no sexual relations outside of marriage? Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow man? Are your family relations in harmony with the Gospel? If you have obligations to a former spouse, are you fulfilling them? Do you feel worthy to enter the House of the Lord? The Temple is a sacred place where covenants with God are made, where couples get married for Time and all Eternity, where the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children and the children to the fathers by virtue of baptism for the dead and the sealing of children, parents, grand-parents, back through all generations of time. Only the best of feelings should prevail here. 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?

Ben Jones
Men and women have different roles but they are equally important. One role that women perform that men cannot is to bear the children. Men are expected to provide for their families. Although women do not hold the priesthood, they are frequently called upon to speak, teach, and pray in Church. You are more likely to hear prayers and sermons from women in a Mormon church than in any other church. Although men hold the priesthood, they are not to regard their office as an excuse to lord it over women. As the prophet Joseph Smith declared, "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile", Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42. The priesthood is largely about being a better husband and father. We don't have to go to "Promise Keeper" rallies to be reminded of our responsibilities toward our families because we get that every week in our priesthood meetings. Women have their own organization, called the Relief Society, which is about education and service to each other. Women are also in charge of Primary which sees to the religious education of children, and of the Young Women's organization which organizes activities for teenage girls. The presidents of these organizations are part of the Ward Council which meets regularly with the bishopric and other priesthood leaders. Show more Show less

What is the Law of Chastity?

Ben Jones
We are to have no sexual relations outside of marriage. Why? Because it is playing around with our sacred power to bring children into the world. Because the emotions aroused by sexual relations should be directed toward cementing the relationship of husband and wife to each other. This seems so logical yet so many people justify themselves in doing otherwise and reap the whirlwind of single parenthood, a jaded attitude toward love, and an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Some justify themselves by saying that they are in love or that they want to find out if they are "compatible" before they tie the knot but real love involves making the commitment after careful consideration and then doing everything possible to make it work. One of my high school buddies used to put down the institution of marriage, calling it restrictive but every time he got involved with a woman, he'd be insanely jealous if she saw anyone else, yet he would never make the commitment. In a back-handed way, he and so many others have proved the importance of marriage.  Show more Show less

What is the priesthood?

Ben Jones
The priesthood is the authority of God delegated to Man. It includes the authority to baptize and confirm members of the Church, to organize the Church, and to administer its affairs. Every worthy male in the Church, age 12 and up, can hold the Aaronic Priesthood. Every worthy male, age 18 and up, can hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. Most Christians have heard of Aaron the brother of Moses. They may not be familiar with Melchizedek but the name occurs in both the Old and New Testaments: Genesis 14:20, Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 6:20-7:21. In practice what this means that boys starting at age 12 participate in the administration of the Sacrament, or Holy Communion. At age 16, they may baptize other members of the Church and may bless the Sacrament. At age 18 they become Elders and may confirm other members of the Church. Fathers may pronounce blessings of healing or comfort on members of their families and may baptize their own children who have reached the age of 8. Some may be called to positions of leadership at various levels of the Church. The priesthood means about as little or as much as you make of it. Teenage priesthood holders can be as rowdy and callow as any other teenagers but if they take their priesthood responsibilities seriously, it gradually changes them for the better and prepares them to serve as missionaries and to become good husbands and fathers. If they don't take them seriously, they will probably fall away, unfortunately. Show more Show less

What is faith?

Ben Jones
Faith is a principle of action. That is, we do things on the assumption that certain things will result from those actions. Faith is not wishful thinking. Statistics are against winning the lottery, for example. On the other hand, the more people who obey God's commandments: do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery, honor your parents, etc the more likely we are to have a civil society. Since you cannot expect others to keep what you will not keep yourself, you'd best start with yourself. Faith cannot always be proved in this way, of course. We cannot show you God. We have nobody, except for Jesus Christ, who came back from the dead to tell us for sure what the afterlife is like, and there are many who dispute the testimony of his disciples about his resurrection. However, we can see results in the lives of those who do believe and we can feel the effects in our own lives when we follow their example and when we ourselves are touched by the spirit on hearing the word. That is the way it was for me. Though I went through a period of disbelieving in God, I found that I liked the company of believers more than I liked the company of skeptics. Alma 32:26-43 in the Book of Mormon talks about how we start with things about God that we do understand, apply them in our lives, and find that they enlarge our souls, which makes us receptive to additional truths, which when we apply them, further enlarge our souls. In the midst of my conversion process, I wrote to some of my old atheist friends to tell them what was happening to me. One of them called me and asked, "So are you out on the streets preaching about Jesus?" I was not. So he said, "Look Ben, I don't mind if you believe in God, just don't take it so seriously." I thought to myself, that is a strange thing to say because if you really believe in God, that changes everything. Show more Show less

What are some things that tell to you there is a God?

Ben Jones
I heard a voice once that told me to marry my girlfriend and adopt her children. I can think of all sorts of psychological reasons why I might have imagined that experience but none of them can do justice to the way things unfolded over the next several years as I got married, adopted the children, gained their acceptance as "Dad", had children of my own, and otherwise found happiness. When my first child was born, I still was calling myself an agnostic even though I was going to the Episcopal Church with her and singing in the choir. My wife said, "Look into this beautiful child's face and tell me there's no God!" I protested, "That's not fair!" but I had to admit she had a point. I used to read books which preached the doctrine of Evolution and which tried to explain how everything happened by chance. They always left me feeling a little depressed. Now I look around this beautiful world and see it teeming with life and admire God's handiwork. As the psalmist said, "When I consider the heavens .. the works of thy fingers, I think 'what is Man that thou art mindful of him?" Psalm 8. It's a curious thing but if you listen to the way evolutionists talk, you'd almost get the impression that there is a mind at work, figuring out what will work best. One thing is for sure, Man does not sit around waiting for Natural Selection to occur. He farms, he selectively breeds, he invents technology to control the elements and beat the odds. Another interesting thing is that if you look at the commandments of God, you see that most of them have to do with respecting everyone else's rights. Even if we don't keep the commandments ourselves, we do prefer it when everyone else keeps them with respect to us. Civilization seems to arise when people agree to work together and respect each others rights. Many of the greatest advances in science and technology have occurred in a land where our Declaration of Independence proclaims, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Many people will object saying, "But what about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust, all the wars where people tried to claim that God was on their side. Well, were people following the commandments when they committed these atrocities or were they violating them? Which would you rather they had done? I myself used these things as an excuse to avoid religion but as I think back, the reason these things upset me was because they seemed to go against everything Jesus Christ stood for. I realized that I believed in Jesus Christ after all because I liked what he stood for. There will always be hypocrites out there who profess to believe in God while secretly doing unrighteous things. If religion produces desirable results like getting people to work together for the common good, there are those who will put on a show of piety just for the respect they will get as well as those who want to use religion to manipulate people into doing their bidding. Jesus Christ reserved his harshest condemnation for these hypocrites. So is it better to not stand for anything for fear of being labeled a hypocrite? I don't think so. A lot of progress has been made in this world by shaming people into practicing what they preach. What can you say to someone who truly believes this is a dog-eat-dog world and acts out that belief? Show more Show less

What is done with the tithing that Mormons pay?

Ben Jones
Tithing pays for the building and maintenance of chapels, temples, seminary, and institute buildings, for educational materials, and for subsidizing Church educational institutions such as Brigham Young University and LDS Business College. Tithing does NOT pay salaries for bishops, stake presidents, organists, or choir directors, who are all volunteers. Tithing does NOT pay for missionaries. Missionaries serve at their own expense with the help of their families and of members of their ward congregations. Tithing does NOT pay for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which consists entirely of volunteers, and whose operation is financed by record sales and by ticket sales when it goes on tour. Tithing does NOT pay the stipends of the Prophet and the Apostles, whose full-time work is paid for out of the taxable profits of Church-owned businesses. Show more Show less

Is it true that Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection according to the Book of Mormon?

Ben Jones
It is a curious fact of history that when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez came to what is now Mexico, he was hailed as the Great White God returning. This could have been due to a garbled tradition among native Americans arising from Christ's visit to a people descended from Israelites who had fled Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity as described in the Book of Mormon. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons have paid clergy?

Ben Jones
Every one of us can have a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and should know what we believe and why. Rather than having a paid minister preach to us each Sunday, members of the congregation are called upon to prepare talks on a rotating basis. This gives us practice in sharing the Gospel with others. A good part of the Gospel is about service to our fellow beings. Are we motivated to share the gospel and to bear one another's burdens because we are rewarded financially or because it is the right thing to do? Show more Show less

Why do some call Mormonism a cult?

Ben Jones
I am rather baffled by this. I once walked into a classroom at my sister's church and overheard the teacher saying, "Yeah, Mormons are evil!" I said, "Excuse me, I'm a Mormon and I don't consider myself evil." He said it was because of some of our doctrines being different from other Christians but admitted that every Mormon he'd ever met was honest, trustworthy, a good neighbor, etc. I wondered by what criteria then is a person to be considered evil. Jesus said that you may know people by their fruits, which is to say, how they live their lives. Show more Show less

Who chooses the Mormon prophet?

Ben Jones
The Mormon Church has twelve apostles. When the prophet dies, the longest-serving apostle always becomes the next prophet. When an apostle dies, the prophet appoints a new one under the direction of Jesus Christ. Usually a new prophet has already been an apostle for 30-40 years so members of the Church are already very well acquainted with him. It is very rare for the son of a prophet to become a prophet but it has happened. Joseph Smith's nephew Joseph F. Smith became the 6th prophet of the Church, 57 years after his death. His son, Joseph Fielding Smith, became the 10th prophet of the Church, 50 years after his death. The prophet has two counselors, who are also apostles. So even if he gets to be so old and feeble that he cannot effectively lead the Church, his counselors and the Twelve still carry on. There are also the quorums of Seventies under the Twelve, not to mention thousands of stake presidents, and tens of thousands of bishops. There is no shortage of leadership in the Church. Show more Show less

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorse political parties?

Ben Jones
The Church makes a point of remaining politically neutral but encourages us to vote for the best candidates. It also encourages us to obey the laws of whatever land we live in but also to take responsibility for framing the laws of the land when it is within our power to do so. Many members of the Church in the US are Republican. I am a Democrat. Sometimes people wonder how I can be a Democrat and a faithful member of the Church. I remind them that many of the principles that Democrats stand for: equal justice for all, help for the disadvantaged, tolerance of diversity, etc. are all principles that the Church supports. I don't support everything that Democrats stand for nor do I disagree with everything Republicans stand for. My late first wife joined the Church in Ohio, having been an active Democrat since she was 15. When she moved to Utah in 1973, her bishop joked that she'd probably have to become a Republican because "they're all Republicans out there." She thought maybe should wouldn't be involved in politics anymore but hadn't been in Utah but 3 weeks when she was on her way to a Relief Society picnic with several other ladies. They started talking politics and ask her if she was interested. She told them she'd been a Democrat in Ohio but since they're all Republicans out here... They all laughed and the lady driving the car said, "I guess you don't know who I am. I'm Marlene Owens, wife of Wayne Owens, the Democrat MORMON congressman from Utah." The next year Wayne Owens ran for the US Senate but lost. The Church then called him to be mission president to Montreal. When I first joined the Church in 1982, the man who was next in line to be the Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, was a very staunch conservative who was once quoted as saying you couldn't be a good Democrat and a good Mormon. A year later, I listened to him give a talk about his experiences with the Boy Scouts and I decided that I was fine with him if he became the next Prophet. Two years after that, he became the Prophet and he never said another word about Democrats or Republicans. Show more Show less

Can a husband and wife be together forever? Do Mormons believe that families will live together in heaven?

Ben Jones
The Church teaches that marriage should be for "time and eternity". Such marriages are solemnized in the temples of the church. Children born to temple marriages are considered to be "born in the covenant". If a couple previously married outside the Temple, they can be sealed "for Time and Eternity" in the Temple and their children, including those adopted to them, may be sealed to them as if they had been "born in the covenant." This is so important that not only can Church members be baptized on behalf of their deceased ancestors, they can stand as proxies for their husband/wife ancestors and their children to be sealed as well. A Temple marriage is not automatically guaranteed to succeed but whereas 50 percent of ordinary marriages fail, only 10 percent of temple marriages fail. The real secret to a happy marriage is not so much finding the perfect partner but rather building a life together, supporting each other in good times and bad times, forgiving each other when mistakes are made, and in being a part of the lives of the children and grand-children. It helps to have a Gospel-centered marriage, to realize that God is a partner in marriage to help us have the right priorities, rather than being centered on our own selfish desires. We sometimes forget that love is a commandment of God: love your wife or husband, love your neighbor, love your enemies. It is easy to love when you feel the emotion of love but it takes effort to love when you feel hatred, anger, or frustration or when you are convinced that you are right and righteous when the other is "obviously" in the wrong. Yet, if we do what love really requires, we will often come to feel that love more intensely. Show more Show less

How can we increase our faith in Jesus Christ?

Ben Jones
In John 7:16-17, Jesus said, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." It is by doing the will of God that we increase our faith. We find out by doing that it is indeed possible to follow God's commandments, that blessings result from following those commandments, and that we very much depend on God. By contrast, those who become lax in their observances and participation in the life of the Church begin to find it incomprehensible, as though the Spirit were withdrawn from them. Show more Show less

Do Mormons practice polygamy?

Ben Jones
No. The Church allowed polygamy, also known as "plural marriage", during the 19th century but abandoned the practice in 1890 after the US Supreme Court ruled that laws passed by Congress prohibiting polygamy were constitutional. The Church believes in obeying and sustaining the laws of the land and will now excommunicate anyone who practices it. The Church has no association with the various polygamous groups you occasionally hear about in the news. One of the first questions my mother asked me when I joined the Church was, "Didn't Joseph Smtih institute polygamy because of lust?" I answered, "There are lots of easier ways to satisfy lust than to take on the responsibility of multiple wives and their children." She said, "Oh yeah, you're right." and she never brought up the subject again. The subject seems to be the source of endless jokes, although in the 2008 election, one commentator pointed out that of the three top Republican contenders for the presidential nomination, the only one who hadn't been married more than once was the Mormon, Mitt Romney. I'm still waiting for someone to ask me, "Oh, you're a Mormon, how many wives do you have?" so that I can answer, "Two ... but one of them is deceased." Seriously though, even having a deceased first wife means that I have to be very sensitive to the feelings of my second wife and to strenuously avoid making comparisons. I can only imagine how much patience it would require to have two wives at the same time. Show more Show less

Are there restrictions based on race or color concerning who can join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have the priesthood?

Ben Jones
No. Where I live, in the Washington DC area, we have a number of black members. Several years ago, we had a black member of the bishopric. One of the other wards in my stake has a black bishop. Gladys Knight, a black gospel singer, is a convert to the Church and has performed in our Stake Center. Show more Show less

Are Mormons Christians?

Ben Jones
Yes. We believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon is subtitled "Another Testament of Christ". In our Sunday "sacrament" meeting we partake of bread and water in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The offical name of the Church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", which is a mouthful. The nickname of Mormon is because we regard "The Book of Mormon" as scripture, as well as the Bible. The name stuck but I must admit, it is much less of a mouthful in ordinary conversation. Some people think we worship a different Jesus than they do but we read the same Bible. My brother recently asked me how I could turn my back on everything our parents taught us by joining the Mormons. I told him that was a rather strange thing to say. Dad was always doing for other people. He recorded the anthems and sermons at the Methodist Church to take them to shut-ins. He was active in his community improvement organization and later in Habitat for Humanity. He ran soup kitchens for the Presbyterian Church. Mom was always encouraging her neighbors to take classes with her. She was PTA president and always participating in community clean-up efforts. Mom and Dad took in strays from time to time to help them straighten out their lives. If I learned anything from them, it was how to be of service to others. My brother has tried a number of different churches but always seems dissatisfied. One of his complaints was that he felt like if he didn't teach the Sunday School class, nobody else would. I asked him what he wanted in a church. He said, "I want a church where I'm not intellectually offended where I can give of my time and my talents and know that other members of the congregation are doing the same." I said, "I hate to break this to you but that is what the Mormon Church is all about." He said, "Yeah but I don't believe it's true." I don't know how to get my brother to look at our Church but I can understand him to a certain extent. I wasn't willing to look at it either until the woman I loved told me how much it meant to her and I had to find out what the big deal was. I was pleasantly surprised. Show more Show less

Why was a Restoration of the Gospel needed? Haven’t we always had the Bible?

Ben Jones
In Joseph Smith's day, there were many Protestant sects competing with each other for followers and all justified their particular practices and points of doctrine by an appeal to the Bible. Just a couple hundred years earlier, these sects had split off from the Catholic Church, which could arguably claim to be descended from the original Christian Church yet had many practices that were at odds with Christ's teachings, particularly the selling of blessings for money, also called Indulgences. The situation is even worse today with even the biggest Protestant sects declining in membership while even newer churches compete for a dwindling share of followers. It would appear that there is an even greater need than ever for God to send new prophets to set things straight. Show more Show less

How can we stop the spread and influence of pornography?

Ben Jones
There are those who think that pornography is harmless but from sad experience, we know that pornography chips away at our spirituallity. It turns sons and daughters of God into objects to be lusted after rather than loved. Pornography can make your partner in life seem less interesting or exciting than the fantasy depicted on the screen or described in the pages of a book. The first step in stopping the spread and influence of pornography is to look within yourself. Realize that you need to treat others as you yourself want to be treated. Think about the messages that movies, pictures, music, and words convey to you. You may find that along with brilliantly realized images and sounds and words are messages that degrade and tear down yourself and others. Avoid it like the plague. When I first joined the Church, I was not particularly into pornography but I did watch R-rated movies from time to time and heard the Church's counsel against watching them but thought I would judge for myself. I began to notice the bad spirit brought into my home and to notice how certain words and images stuck in my mind. I made a decision with my wife that we would avoid such things in the future and I haven't missed them at all. Another thing to do is to activate the parental controls on your TV and computer, even if there are no kids in the house. Even though you still have the password to allow individual shows and sites, it is good to be reminded of places you shouldn't go.. Show more Show less

What are Mormon women like? Do Mormons believe in equality of men and women?

Ben Jones
I've always been very impressed with the intelligence and forthrightness of women in the Church. Both my late first wife and my second wife have been very organized, very diligent in their callings, very concerned for the welfare of their children, and very loving. The Church believes that men and women should be equal partners in marriage. The Church was one of the earliest supporters of womens' right to vote. When Utah, with a majority of Mormons, was admitted to the union in 1896, it granted women the right to vote. That was 22 years before the US Constitution was amended to allow women the right to vote. So you might ask, why did the Church oppose the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 1970's? It was because they saw it as a club which was going to be used to endlessly litigate wherever someone saw a supposed inequality between men and women. Statistics show that women on the average make 70 percent of what men make in similar positions. Is that an unfairness that needs to be addressed by legislation or litigation or does it result from the fact that when women bear children, they take themselves out of the job market for a time. It could be argued that the only way to make men and women completely equal in the job market is to turn the rearing of children completely over to professionals. Be that as it may, the Church desires that men and women get all the education they can and I've heard a figure that 75 percent of adult Mormon women have college degrees. I myself have three daughters, one with an associate degree, one in graduate school, and one who just got her doctorate. Show more Show less

What are Mormon church services like? Are visitors allowed at church meetings? Can I attend church?

Ben Jones
Visitors are always welcome at Mormon services. At first glance, the "sacrament meeting" looks very much like any other church service. There are prayers, hymns, taking of the communion or "sacrament" as we call it, anthems, and sermons. There are some interesting differences however: The sermons are usually given by members of the congregation at the request of the bishop who presides over the service. The bishop is not a paid minister but has been "called" to his position along with 2 counselors to preside over the congregation for a period of about 5 years. They all have regular full-time jobs. For example, I myself served as a counselor to my bishop while continuing to work as a software engineer. He was a lawyer and his other counselor was a used-car salesman. The Sacrament is usually blessed and passed by boys age 12-18. The bread is in remembrance of the body of Jesus Christ. The water is in remembrance of his blood which was shed for us. No collection plate is ever passed at a service. Members give their tithes and offerings directly to the bishop and his counselors. On the first Sunday of each month, instead of sermons, we have a testimony meeting, which is sort of like "open mike". Members come up to the pulpit to give short spontaneous talks. Even young children will do this. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe concerning the doctrine of grace?

Ben Jones
When I announced my decision to join the Church, my sister objected, saying that Mormons think they are saved by their good works. I said, "Well, what do you do after you're saved?" My siblings, even though they believe they are saved by grace, don't sit around waiting for the Second Coming. They are active in their churches. They say they do it because they love God, not because they think God will be impressed by their service. I would agree but I also think that by trying to follow the commandments of God, and by trying to serve our fellow man, we find talents we didn't know we had but also find out how much we depend on God. I like the way an apostle of the Mormon Church in "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder" explained God's grace: A farmer plants his seeds, tends his crops, and reaps his harvest all seemingly by his own efforts. Yet he cannot take credit for the sun, the rain, and for life itself, which are all gifts of God, without which he would reap nothing. Yet if he did nothing but pray, he would receive nothing either. He had to do what he was capable of doing and then let God do the rest. As the Book of Mormon puts it in 2 Nephi 25:23, "we are saved by grace after all we can do." Mormons are given many opportunities to serve, as teachers, missionaries, singers, youth leaders, baby sitters, bishops. Our faith is tried and tested in ways that are not afforded by merely attending church. We don't have a paid ministry. Our bishop and his counselors all have full time jobs outside the Church but they give a good deal of unpaid time to administer the affairs of their congregation. They call on members of their congregation to preach the sermons each week as well as to serve in other capacities. Each of us learns the Gospel so that we can share it effectively with others. Show more Show less

Why do you have 12 Apostles? They were just meant to be around for the time of Jesus Christ, not to be replaced with new apostles.

Ben Jones
At the end of Acts 1, Matthias is named as a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Later, the apostle James is martyred. Still later on in the New Testament, Paul, who never knew Jesus personally, is identified as an apostle. There doesn't seem to be any reason why suddenly no more apostles should be called. In Ephesians 4:11-14, Paul talks about how the Lord gave apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers until we all come in the unity of the faith. These days, there doesn't seem to be any unity of the faith with thousands of sects out there. So it would appear that there is a need for apostles in this modern age. Show more Show less

What is the Church’s position on abortion?

Ben Jones
The Church allows for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and where the life of the mother is at risk. However, these cases are rare and should still be very prayerfully considered. If a child is born out of wedlock where marriage of the birth parents is not a viable option, the Church strongly advises that the child be adopted by a husband and wife who will be able to give the child the proper upbringing, particularly the blessing of being sealed to the adoptive parents in the Temple. Show more Show less

What is the Mormon lifestyle like? How do Mormons live?

Ben Jones
The Church encourages music, dance, theater, art, movies, sports, science, modern medicine, community service, service to whatever country we are citizens of. The 13th Article of the Church states: If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. The Church prohibits alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, and tea and recreational drugs but does allow herbal tea and soft drinks, discouraging but not prohibiting caffeinated drinks. What I mean by "prohibit" is that in order to be able to attend the Temple, I need to be able to honestly say that I abstain from prohibited things. I once threw a Christmas party for my colleagues at the office. One woman objected because I asked people not to bring alcoholic drinks to the party. She didn't come but everyone that came must have enjoyed themselves anyway because they stayed late. The Church discourages the viewing of R-rated movies. When I first joined the Church, I wasn't going to let them tell me what I could or could not see but I began to notice the bad spirit that was brought into my home when we had watched something R-rated and decided that their advice was good. The Church teaches abstinence before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. It discourages divorce but does allow for it, especially when there is abuse or infidelity. Show more Show less

Do you really believe there is a prophet like Moses alive today?

Ben Jones
Yes. If we accept the idea that there was a prophet 3000 years ago, what is so difficult about the idea that there could be one today? Of course, people have different preconceptions of what a prophet is "supposed" to be like. Perhaps they think of Charlton Heston wearing a beard. I was reading an article several years ago by an atheist, who was traveling around America thinking to follow in Alexis de Toqueville's footsteps. He got a chance to meet Gordon B. Hinckley, our previous prophet. He was looking for someone like Joseph Smith and was disappointed to meet, as he put it, "a dapper little man with gold buttons on his suit." Like many before him, he was more impressed by dead prophets than a live one. Well, I met Gordon B. Hinckley shortly after I joined the Church and observed him for the next 25 years and was very impressed with him as a man of God. Show more Show less

How are the activities of the Mormon missionaries funded?

Ben Jones
Missionaries serve 18-24 months at their own expense. They are encouraged to work to save the money prior to their missions but their families may also provide support. In addition, members of a ward congregation can contribute to the ward missionary fund. The bishop can use these funds to help support members of the ward who are currently serving missions who could not otherwise afford to go on a mission. In 2008 when my daughter was serving her mission, this was about $400/month. This money goes to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, which then pays an amount to the missionary based on average expenses for the area in which he or she is serving. Four of my six children served missions. Two of them served about 1987-1990. At that time, I could not afford the expense but my ward supported them and I contributed whatever I could afford to the ward mission fund for many years afterward. When my youngest son was serving in 2004-2006, he saved about a third of the expense. I contributed the rest. I had several months of unemployment during that mission but the ward stepped in with support. When my youngest daughter served from 2006-2008, she provided 2/3 of expense. I and my step-daughter provided the rest of it. Show more Show less

Why are Mormons asked to donate 10% of their income to their Church?

Ben Jones
Tithing is what pays for the meetinghouses, the temples, the books, the technology that makes the church function. We are all equal in the sight of God. A person who makes $10,000/year pays $1,000 in tithing and is equal to the person who makes $1,000,000/year and pays $100,000 in tithing. It is as simple as that. Tithing helps us order our priorities. We give to God first and figure out how to live on the rest. Somehow it always seems to work out. I've been through periods of unemployment and financial stress but I've managed to pull through without ever missing a tithing payment. I've seen others not pay tithing and still never seeming to have enough because they fritter away what they do earn on things that don't matter. Show more Show less

What is the First Vision?

Ben Jones
When the Prophet Joseph Smith was 14, he wanted to know which of the various Christian sects was true. When he went into the woods to pray about it, he was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who told him that all of the sects were wrong and their ministers corrupt, that they had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof. When he related the story to a Methodist minister he had been friends with, he was told that all revelation had ceased with the Apostles 1800 years earlier and that therefore this vision was of the devil. Thereafter he was reviled for telling the story. He was very baffled by this because he had indeed seen a vision and people were telling him that he couldn't possibly have seen one. He said he felt very much like St. Paul, who had seen a vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and been reviled for saying so. - This is a very powerful story, as related in The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History. The interesting thing is that it is very much in line with what Protestants had been preaching, that the original Christian Church had fallen into apostasy, as evidenced by the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church that Martin Luther and other reformers had railed against hundreds of years earlier. Reformers had started their own churches, using the Bible as their guide yet sects continued to multiply even as they quoted the Bible to support their various approaches. However, by denying that there could be any more revelation, the Protestant churches were essentially denying the power of God. - Five years after I joined the Church, my mother was very concerned for the welfare of my soul because I was a Mormon. We read various passages in the Bible and she asked me if I believed them and I said yes. Finally, she asked, do you believe the Bible is the ONLY word of God and I said, "No. Are you trying to tell me that God is not omnipotent and couldn't give us more scripture if He wanted?" She replied, "Well, no I wouldn't say that." So I began to talk about the Apostasy and read her parts of the First Vision. Then she said, "Did you know that the National Presbyterian Church recently allowed an avowed atheist to be ordained a minister?" My uncle later explained to me that the minister in question did not believe that Christ was born of a virgin. My mother had been a Presbyterian most of her life. Yet she agreed that there were many things she believed that went against Presbyterian teachings or that Presbyterians were silent on For example, she believed that marriage was eternal and that we lived with our Heavenly Father before we were born on this Eart. We talked for many hours. A couple days later, she said, "If this Church is true, I want to be baptized!" She died a week later. However, not to worry, I had my wife baptized on her behalf a year later.     Show more Show less

How can we come to know our Father in Heaven?

Ben Jones
Jesus Christ said, "If any man will do his the Father's will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."  - John 717. The Book of Mormon says that when we apply parts of the doctrine that we do understand, we find that it enlarges our soul and makes us more receptive to additional truth that was previously incomprehensible - Alma 32. - By contrast, those that do not follow the commandments already begin to find them incomprehensible, hard to deal with.  Show more Show less