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Monday, October 15, 2012

How to investigate the LDS Church

How do I find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

If you're wondering what the LDS Church is and how its members worship and understand its teachings, here are the steps I recommend. In general form (ignoring the LDS specifics below), these are the steps I recommend for when anyone is interested in learning the spiritual aspects of any religious organization and/or the truth of anything at all.

1. Use the Meetinghouse Locator to find and attend several meetings of your local congregation (called a "ward"). I suggest going for more than a month straight, so you can see broader picture (for example, differences between Fast and Testimony meeting on the 1st Sunday of every month vs. the regular sacrament meeting programs). 

2. Attend all three hours of each week's meeting block to hear what is taught in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood (or Relief Society).

3. Attend at least one cultural event or activity outside of a Sunday meeting. There's usually at least one per month in every ward. Ask a member or look in the program flyer each Sunday for the latest announcements.

4. Read along with the classes that are being taught. Start with the essentials of the Gospel, through the Gospel Principals manual. Study the Our Heritage book for an overview of LDS Church history. Then, move on to the Sunday School manuals. This year's class has been the Book of Mormon. The classes rotate annually over a period of four years: Year 1: Old Testament, Year 2: New Testament, Year 3: Book of Mormon, Year 4: Doctrine & Covenants.

5. Ask the missionaries to teach you. Tell them you'd like a member of the Church who is not a full-time missionary to accompany them so you can get a second perspective from a "regular" member. Meet LDS Church members online and at church meetings and activities.

6. Visit LDS.org/conference and listen to the most recent words of apostles and the prophet.

7. Read a Church magazine, such as The Ensign (adults), The New Era (youth), or The Friend (children) and The Liahona (international).

8. For any questions you have about doctrine, the entire library of everything we teach in all of our weekly meetings is found online at LDS.org/manual

9. Visit a nearby visitor's center, historic site, pageant, or temple. Learn how the Church takes care of the poor and needy via its humanitarian programDeseret Industries and provident living (welfare) programs.


MOST IMPORTANTLY

As you study and attend and discuss:

A. Set aside doubts long enough to feel the Spirit. "The Savior said, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28) and 'Knock, and it shall be [given] you' (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism." (Faith—the Choice is Yours, Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric)

B. Live the teachings and doctrine (John 7:16-17) and pray to know whether what you've been taught is true. From Elder David A. Bednar's October 2012 conference talk on conversion:

"As Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He posed this penetrating question to His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?”

"Peter responded forthrightly:

"'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

"'And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 16:15–17).

"As is evidenced in Peter’s reply and the Savior’s instruction, a testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children. Any honest seeker of truth can obtain a testimony by exercising the necessary 'particle of faith' in Jesus Christ to 'experiment upon' (Alma 32:27) and 'try the virtue of the word' (Alma 31:5), to yield 'to the enticings of the Holy Spirit' (Mosiah 3:19), and to awaken unto God (see Alma 5:7). Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance, and joy.

"Seeking for and obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7; 3 Nephi 14:7) with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior (see Moroni 10:4). Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days."

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