What Is a Church Community?

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Hi I'm Ryan

I'm an amateur writer. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I graduated high school at the age of 16 after being mostly home-schooled. When I was eighteen I attended a year of college at Southern Virginia University, during which time I was part of the ROTC attached to the Virginia Military Institute. I frequently write stories and have recently taken up poetry, and I hope to be published in my lifetime. I am currently serving a two-year period of missionary service and will be attending Michigan State shortly after I return home.

Why I am a Mormon

I was born into the Church but what got me interested as a teenager was that the doctrines made a sense that wasn't there in many other religions. I admit that I didn't have the strongest testimony when I left on a mission but as I performed the duty that God asked of me I began to learn, line by line, many more things that had previously been unknown to me, and was able to witness- and sometimes even be part of- miracles that I had never expected that I would see. I have come to see the hand of God in the Book of Mormon, in the history of the Church, and in my life, and no matter what else may be in question, I know that there is Something there, that Joseph Smith was an instrument of that Divine Power, and that there yet remains a power in this Church.

How I live my faith

I am currently a two-year period of unpaid missionary service in Salt Lake City, which will end in November 2013. I study the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets on a daily basis and strive to fully follow the commandments as I understand them and to continue to learn so that I might understand them more accurately. I strive to pray often and communicate with my Father in Heaven in order that I can be brought closer to Him and perceive His will for me and His hand in my life.

What is done with the tithing that Mormons pay?

Practicing Mormons donate a tenth of their income to the LDS Church as a way of demonstrating our knowledge that all things, include our material possessions, are in reality His and that we are not owners but stewards of these things, with the privilege of managing and enjoying them but also a responsibility to manage them well. In return we are promised blessings in great enough number that "there shall not be room enough to receive" them, as said in Malachi 3:10. Tithing money is used ONLY for the building-up of the kingdom: constructing and maintaining church buildings like chapels and temples, printing copies of the Book of Mormon and educational materials (both the pamphlets that missionaries hand out and the books used in Sunday classes), running family history work, and other activities that are directly related to the salvation of God's children. Church-run businesses supply the necessary income for everything else, including the stipends given to leaders in the Church whose responsibilities leave them with no time for another job. Show more Show less

What is faith?

As Hebrews 11:1 says, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Alma 32:21 rewords the same declaration: "faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." As these verses say, faith is a hope in something that (1) we do not have proof in but (2) which is true. We do not have faith that the sun exists, but we have faith that God does, because, despite testimonies and witnessed miracles, there is no evidence for God which would hold up under thorough scientific examination. Each of us must personally choose to step down a path which requires us to first have faith and which will end, after we have been sufficiently tested, in irrefutable confirmation- but confirmed in a way that is experienced only personally, so that others can still start down that road with nothing but faith. We must also remember that faith begins as hope. Even if we do not believe, it is enough to WANT to believe; we will find ourselves traveling down that path and developing spiritually even with that meager grain of power. As a final note, faith is not passive. True faith compels us to act in a manner according to our faith. For example, someone who does not act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ does not have genuine faith in Him but, at most, has only an intellectual acceptance of His divinity, without the faith necessary for salvation. Show more Show less

What is a ward/stake/branch?

Wards and branches are the basic organizational units of the church besides families, with other organizations being either subdivisions under their administration (every ward and branch has an elders' quorum, a relief society, and so on) or collections of these units (wards and branches are organized into stakes). Branches are a variety of ward which lacks a sufficient number of priesthood holders (which varies from place to place in relation to such things as population density, etc) to be a full ward, usually because there is a very small church population too remote from other members to attend their ward or because they have special needs. For example, as a missionary I worked with the Jordan River Branch, which covered the entire Salt Lake Valley and served the Cambodian-speaking population so that services could be held in the Khmer language. Branches are led by branch presidents and wards by bishops, and the stakes are administrated by stake presidents, all of which are assisted by a pair of counselors. Show more Show less

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

The Restoration of the Gospel was not only a restoration of many truths that had been lost over the ages but a restoration of something even more important: the priesthood, or the authority or permission given by God to act in His name. Priesthood authority is required to perform ordinances such as baptism. Without the priesthood a church may have every organization and office possessed by the Primitive Church and yet still not have everything that it needs. Amid persecution and other difficulties apostasy flowered in the Primitive Church and as a result of this the authority of God was withdrawn from it, which only quickened the spread of apostasy. By AD 313 the so-called "Great Apostasy" had already settled in full force, which means that all modern Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, inherited the conditions of the Great Apostasy by the time of their founding rather than caused them. According to some examples of "forty-day literature"- old scriptures purporting to be records in part or in full of what Jesus taught during the forty days before His ascension- this process may have taken as little as two generations. 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.

Jesus called twelve of His disciples to be apostles, to be "special witnesses of Christ and general authorities to the Church" in modern terminology. In Ephesians 2:20 Paul states that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." It was and is intended by God for the Church to have a quorum of twelve apostles for as long as the Church is worthy. For this reason, Matthias was, as described in Acts 1:15-26, chosen to replace Judas after the latter's death. While particular phrases throughout the New Testament can be interpreted to mean that this person or that (Silas, for example) was an apostle, in Acts 14:14 there is mention of "the apostles, Barnabas and Paul," explicitly declaring them, too, to be apostles. We can see in just a few verses how there were others explicitly mentioned as being apostles, who were not among the original Twelve, and that in a place where the death of an apostle is mentioned, this declaration is followed by the selection of one to take his place. Obviously Peter and his peers expected that they were to be replaced. Why should we not believe as they did? Show more Show less

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

According to the account in 3 Nephi, one of the books in the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ indeed visited people living in the New World after his resurrection, just as He visited many other people living in other places in the world. This is hinted at in John 10:16, where He declares "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." These sheep were not of the fold accessible to the Twelve, for these sheep were to be visited by Jesus Himself. That said, we do not know exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. While the most prominent theory today (indeed it is so widely-accepted that many think it to be genuine doctrine and not a theory of humans) is that the Book of Mormon took place in Central America, other theories are that it spanned both continents or was focused around the Great Lakes, or even that it took place in the Malay Peninsula. While it is most probable that it took place in the New World, we do not know, ultimately, where in the New World it took place, and Jesus could have appeared in South America as easily as in North America. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons have paid clergy?

Yes and no. Local leaders, such as bishops and stake presidents (the former administrate over a congregation, and the latter over a collection of congregations) are not paid, but the very highest leaders of the Church, such as members of the Quorum of the Twelve, retire from their careers and are given living stipends because their work is in itself a full-time job (indeed, sometimes it takes as much as two full-time jobs). The money for these stipends is taken from businesses owned by the Church and not from tithing. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons drink coffee, tea, or alcohol? What is the Mormon Church’s law of health and proper diet?

Because of revelation called the Word of Wisdom, contained in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Mormons abstain from coffee, tobacco, tea (but only when made from the tea leaf; herbal is okay), and alcohol. Since the WOW was given it was expanded to include a prohibition against illegal drugs. Some Mormons personally expand this to include a prohibition against caffeine and/or eating meat. The former is because caffeine is a common element in coffee and tea, leading some to believe that this is why they are banned. The latter is because of verses 12-15 of Section 89, which can be interpreted to mean that we should only eat meat if necessary for our survival. Several Prophets ate very little or no meat at all, including Heber J. Grant, who reportedly ate meat only a dozen times. Despite these beliefs it is important to note that, according to official church policy, the bare minimum necessary to follow the WOW is to follow the prohibitions and "eat meat sparingly." It is not out of the question for the Spirit to inspire someone to go beyond this, but otherwise this is unnecessary. While many think its purpose is related to physical health, God stated in D&C 29:34-35 that "all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal." Upon closer inspection the WOW is to separate ourselves from the world and consecrate ourselves to God, just as with the old Nazirite vow or, more broadly, much (if not all) of the Mosaic Law. Show more Show less

Do Mormons practice polygamy?

I know of no members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who practice polygamy, and it is the declared policy of the Church to excommunicate members who do practice it. There are, unfortunately, groups which claim to be Mormon and which do practice polygamy. As said before, such people are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Show more Show less

What is the Church’s position on abortion?

As stated in 1973 by the First Presidency (at that time Presidents Harold B. Lee, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney), "The Church opposes abortion... except in the rare cases where... the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother." The statement continues on to say that "counseling with local presiding priesthood authority" and "divine confirmation through prayer" should also be sought before making a decision. In other words, since abortion, if performed in these cases, must also be permitted by the government (in order to also comply with the requirement to obey the law of the land), and it must also not pose a danger to the mother (else there would be no point in performing the abortion in order to spare her life), one might summarize the Church's position on abortion as being that the practice should be "safe, legal, and rare," with extreme emphasis on the third point. Show more Show less

Are Mormons Christians?

I suppose that it depends on what you mean. Many people define "Christian" as one who believes in the tenets of the Nicene Creed. Those that use this definition believe that we are not Christians because we believe, for example, that God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate personages rather than "one substance." But if you define "Christian" as "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ," as Merriam-Webster defines it, or as one who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then we are most certainly Christians. Show more Show less