By Ramona Siddoway
A couple of months ago an Women’s Interfaith Discussion Group met to discuss common misconceptions people have about other religions. Besides walking away with much more respect for other religions and the amazing women in that group, I think we all agreed that for the most part we don’t know squat about anybody else’s religion. Not really. We tend to lump everyone into large stereotypical groups with not much more than media, hearsay, and Hollywood to back any of our claims.
What can make things easier is if we have a friend from that particular religion we feel comfortable enough to ask those “awkward” questions. Let’s see if we can answer some questions and clear up some common misconceptions about Mormons. Please feel free to leave comments or ask additional questions in the comment box.
Myth #1: Mormons aren’t Christians
Let’s begin with the name of the church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The name “Mormon” is actually a nickname given to the church and its members in general and has been adopted out of ease. The name comes from the Book of Mormon, a set of scriptures we use in addition to the King James version of the Bible. Jesus Christ is the center of Mormon worship and the head of the church. Everything else in the Mormon religion is an appendage to Him. He is worshiped as the Savior of all humanity.
Some of the confusion comes from the mainstream Christian belief of the Trinity. Mormons believe that God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate personages united in one common purpose. Some have said that Mormons don’t believe in the same Jesus Christ. However, there is only one recorded Jesus Christ in the New Testament and that is the one who is worshiped. Mormons are Christians and this is becoming more and more widely recognized. We also believe that being a Christian is more than a statement of beliefs, but a rule of action.
Myth #2: Mormons baptize corpses
This is an easy one to clear up. One of the ordinances we perform in our temples is proxy baptism, that is, baptizing for and behalf of our deceased ancestors. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul tells us: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Most Christian religions believe that baptism is an essential ordinance, a prerequisite to live in the presence of God. As Mormons we believe this as well. But what about those people who did not have the opportunity to be baptized? We believe that this – and other ordinances – can be performed by proxy.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are encouraged to seek out our ancestors through family history work and perform those saving ordinances for them. Let me pause and make a couple of clarifying points here. We focus on our own immediate ancestors. We are not allowed to perform proxy work for anyone else unless we have the permission of living relatives. So breathe easy! We won’t “make you a Mormon” after you’re dead! Whew! And even after all of this proxy work has been performed another essential key belief kicks into play here. Free agency. The ancestor on “the other side” can choose whether or not to accept these ordinances. Nothing is ever forced on anyone. Not even after death.
In my next blog post I’ll tackle some more myths and misconceptions.
Ramona Siddoway is a freelance writer and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) where she volunteers in the Public Affairs department. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Interfaith Houston.