Essay: Mormonism

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Mormonism is the term generally used when referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is aimed at an encompassing overview to include "the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Founded by Joseph Smith in the early 1800s, Mormonism is based on the Articles of Faith, an enumeration of 13 beliefs seen as central to the faith and including belief in God, belief in being subjects, and, most important, belief in a primitive organization of the Church.

From many perspectives, Mormonism is seen as a restorationist Christian religion in that it seeks to go back to the primitive form of Christianity and initial Christian teachings. The Book of Mormon, containing the teachings of Joseph Smith, was published in 1830 and is considered to be the Mormon Holy Scripture, as well as a testament of Jesus Christ.

Several controversies surrounded Mormonism starting with its incipient phases of development. The sect's adepts' initial attempt to settle in Illinois and Missouri was met with reticence by the local population and the Mormons were forced to move West, until reaching Utah, at that point almost unpopulated. Subsequently, issues like polygamy, promoted in a 'plural marriage' form by Joseph Smith, but this was not imposed as a condition to being part of the church. Upon pressure from the U.S. Congress on this issue, polygamy was officially renounced by the church through the 1890 Manifesto, although such practices have been retained by various Mormon sects who abide by original credos.

The temple visited is the Las Vegas Nevada Mormon temple, located on 827 Temple View Drive, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The temple was built in the 1980s, the site being dedicated in 1985 and the construction being completed and declared an open house in 1989. It is the 43rd operating temple in the history of Mormonism and it was also a tourist attraction, being open to the public in this sense starting in November 1989. The temple is adorned with six spires, the highest of these measuring around 119 feet. On top of the highest spire is an artistic representation of the angel Moroni, who is said to have visited and inspired Joseph Smith starting with 1823 and providing golden plates as the source for the Book of Mormon. The current president of the temple is Bruce Stucki, who assumed his position in 2006.

The building was constructed by George Tate, who has used, besides the notable symbols of Mormon faith, such as the presence of the mentioned angel Moroni, local traditional elements from the South West in his creation, such as the desert lily. One of the exquisite features of the construction itself is the copper roof, coming in contrast with the six white spires that tower over the building.

In many ways, this is considered to be "the crowning jewel of Las Vegas' Mormon community." The best thing about is probably not the construction itself, however impressive that may be, but actually the view and surrounding residential area. The temple is built on a mountain-like landscape, central in the middle of the area in which it is located, given out to a wonderful valley below. It is also viewable from the valley, so people driving through will see it as they pass along. Placing it on a mountain also has a symbolic meaning, with people coming closer to God as they climb up to visit the temple and leave behind the characteristics and troubles of the human world.

The interview was focused in getting some of the background characteristics of the Mormon faith from someone who practices and believes in this religion. First, the interview was relevant in that many of the answers emphasized the underlying similarities between Mormonism and other Christian religions. For example, it was shown in the interview that the Mormons believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost (similar to the Christian common denominator of believing in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost). Jesus Christ, on the other hand, also travelled, according to Mormon beliefs, to North America after his resurrection, the interviewee mentioning the Gospel after John as an argument in this sense.

The interview also discussed the center books of Mormonism, notably the Book of Mormon, written by Prophets on the American continent after divine inspiration. The Golden Plates paralleled the Ten Commandments in that they formed the underlying material for the Book of Mormon. The faith also strongly encourages missionaries to go out and spread the word of Mormonism.

Despite common beliefs, the interviewee emphasized that there is no particular mention in any of the Mormon documents that women should be submissive towards men, as well as the fact that family tends to play an important role in Mormonism, with the religion literally growing around this stable centers represented by the family and family life.

It was also interesting to note that the interviewee considered that Mormonism has shaped his life enormously, at all levels, by providing the teachings around which he could build his own life. Many of the Mormon teachings he left went back to the original messages of love and tolerance that Christianity had worked with. At the same time, practicing the Mormon religion also places some important challenges, but these are usually challenges that can be found with any religions and with the capacity of committing yourself faithfully to any of these religious practices.

In terms of comparing and contrasting Mormonism and Catholicism, the first observation that one needs to make is that they are both part of the Christian religion, which means that they are fundamentally similar in what concerns some of the basic conceptions about God and man, as well as about the relationship between these two entities. As Christian faith, these two concepts will be at the center of both Mormonism and Catholicism.

An important difference is given out about the concept of Heaven and how the two religions tend to see this. Mormons are very particular about describing the notion of Heaven, going as far as splitting after life into three levels or kingdoms: the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom and the Telestial Kingdom. The celestial kingdom is the highest level in Heaven that one can attain. Based on writings by St. Paul, the celestial kingdom concept will comprise those believers who have abided by the Mormon teachings during their lives and who have lived up to their beliefs. The terrestrial and telestial levels will contain limitations as compared to the celestial kingdom.

On the other hand, Catholicism is usually "nervous about efforts to spell out the meaning of heaven with fine precision." Heaven is not necessarily a place, but a "state of being," a condition where God is not present, thus imposing holiness and exceptionality.

At the same time, salvation is an interesting concept for both Mormonism and Catholicism, an important contrast in most situations. For the Catholics, salvation as a process comes "as God's free gift, the work of the Spirit in any human heart, within or without the Catholic Church." For Mormons, the ultimate salvation and the state of exaltation can only be reached by a true Mormon believer. Thus, attaining salvation is preconditioned by the acceptance of the Mormon faith and beliefs.

There are also important similarities worth mentioning. Both churches have a distinct, hierarchical organization, with a head of the church and numerous levels that have administrative, as well as faith-related, duties. One of the important similarities is also the fact that missionaries are probably the most important instruments that the churches use in getting their message around.

For the Catholic Church, this has been an instrumental way of getting Catholicism spread in the new countries of Africa, Asia or Latin America, starting with the 1500s and still continuing, to some degree nowadays, despite figures showing Catholicism as the most wide-spread religion in the world. Mormonism is still in an incipient phase from this perspective, however, going out on a mission to spread the faith is still one of the phases in the evolution of a Mormon. Increasingly, funds are being used in order to finance missionary trips to all parts of the world, including Europe, despite the envisaged difficulty in converting people on the European continent to Mormonism.

Despite the fact that they may seem completely different, Catholicism and Mormonism are in fact similar on a large range of issues. We can start with the even simpler ones: both believe there is one God. This is a fundamental similitude, because it marks both as monotheistic religions. On the other hand, both come, as shown, from the original form of Christianity, despite the fact that Mormonism is trying to preserve initial concepts to a higher degree than the Catholic Church does.

Some of the other important similarities include the fact that the relationship between body and soul is emphasized in both religions and one needs to keep the body holy in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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