What Makes Latter-day Saints Different?

Have you ever wondered what sets Latter-day Saints apart from other religious groups? In an increasingly diverse world, it is essential to understand the unique characteristics that define the faith and guide its followers. From their emphasis on family values to their belief in modern-day revelation, Latter-day Saints cultivate a distinct spiritual lifestyle that sets them apart. By exploring the foundations of their faith, you will gain a deeper understanding of what makes Latter-day Saints so remarkable.

Beliefs and Doctrines

The Restoration of the Gospel

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the LDS Church or Mormonism, believes in the Restoration of the Gospel. This belief centers around the idea that the full gospel of Jesus Christ, as originally established in the New Testament, was gradually lost after the death of the apostles. According to LDS teachings, God chose Joseph Smith as a prophet in the early 19th century to restore the true gospel and establish His Church once again on the earth. This belief in the restoration is a key distinguishing aspect of the faith.

The Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ

One of the most significant beliefs in the LDS faith is the belief in The Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ. According to LDS teachings, the Book of Mormon is a sacred text that was translated by Joseph Smith from ancient records and serves as a companion to the Bible. It tells the story of a group of people who migrated from Jerusalem to the Americas and contains the teachings of Jesus Christ during His visit to the Americas. Latter-day Saints believe that the Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, is the word of God and provides guidance and inspiration for their lives.

The Importance of Temples

Temples hold a central place in the beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints. These sacred buildings are regarded as the house of the Lord, where important ordinances are performed. Temples are seen as a place where individuals and families can participate in sacred ceremonies and make covenants with God. These ordinances include baptisms for the dead, sealings for marriages and families, and other acts of worship and devotion. The belief in the importance of temples reflects the strong emphasis on eternal families and the eternal nature of relationships in the LDS faith.

The Plan of Salvation

The LDS Church places a strong emphasis on the Plan of Salvation, also known as the Plan of Happiness. This doctrine teaches that all people are eternal beings, with a premortal, mortal, and postmortal existence. According to this plan, individuals have the opportunity to progress and become more like God through obedience to His commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. This includes making choices that align with God’s will, repenting of sins, and receiving necessary ordinances and blessings. The Plan of Salvation helps guide Latter-day Saints in understanding their purpose in life and the potential for eternal happiness.

Living Prophets and Continuous Revelation

Latter-day Saints believe in the concept of living prophets and continuous revelation. They believe that God continues to communicate with His children through modern-day prophets, just as He did in ancient times. These prophets, such as Joseph Smith and current church leaders, are seen as chosen representatives of God who receive inspiration and guidance for the Church and its members. The belief in living prophets emphasizes the idea that God’s work is ongoing and that He continues to reveal His will to His children in order to guide them in their spiritual journey.

Religious Practices

Regular Attendance at Church Meetings

Latter-day Saints place importance on regular attendance at church meetings. Each Sunday, members gather together for worship services, which typically include sacrament meetings, Sunday School classes, and various other meetings and activities. Sunday worship provides an opportunity for members to renew their covenants with God, receive spiritual nourishment, and participate in the community of the Church. Regular attendance at church meetings helps strengthen individual faith and fosters a sense of unity and fellowship among members.

Observance of the Sabbath

The observance of the Sabbath is a significant religious practice in the LDS faith. Latter-day Saints adhere to the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy and set it apart as a day of rest, worship, and service. On Sundays, members refrain from participating in activities that are not in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. This includes avoiding shopping, work-related activities, and unnecessary recreation. Instead, Sundays are reserved for attending church, spending time with family, engaging in personal and family worship, and performing acts of service.

Dietary Restrictions

Latter-day Saints have certain dietary restrictions that are commonly referred to as the Word of Wisdom. This code of health prohibits the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illicit drugs. It encourages a balanced and healthy lifestyle, emphasizing the consumption of wholesome foods and promoting moderation in all things. The Word of Wisdom is seen as a commandment from God, and the adherence to these dietary restrictions is considered an act of obedience and a way to maintain physical and spiritual well-being.

Strong Emphasis on Family

The LDS faith places a strong emphasis on the importance of family. Latter-day Saints believe that the family unit is divinely ordained and that eternal family relationships can be established through sacred ordinances performed in temples. This belief in the eternal nature of families influences various religious practices and teachings within the LDS Church. Family activities, such as family prayer and scripture study, are encouraged as a means to strengthen bonds and nurture spiritual growth. The emphasis on family extends to the broader community of the Church, where members often refer to each other as brothers and sisters, fostering a sense of unity and support.

Missionary Work

Missionary work is a fundamental practice in the LDS faith. Young men and women, typically between the ages of 18 and 25, are encouraged to serve full-time missions, dedicating a period of 18 to 24 months to teaching and sharing the gospel with others. These missionaries are seen as representatives of Jesus Christ and the Church, and they strive to invite others to come unto Christ and experience the blessings of the restored gospel. Missionaries learn a foreign language, study the scriptures, and engage in various forms of service to help individuals and communities.

Organizational Structure

The Priesthood and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy

The LDS Church operates under a hierarchical structure known as the priesthood. The priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name and is organized into two levels: the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. These priesthoods are conferred upon worthy male members starting at the age of 12. The ecclesiastical hierarchy includes bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities who are responsible for the administration and oversight of local congregations, known as wards and stakes. This hierarchical structure ensures proper governance and the provision of spiritual guidance and support.

Wards and Stakes

Wards and stakes are the local units of the LDS Church. A ward typically consists of several hundred members who reside in a specific geographic area. Wards meet together for regular worship services, and members receive support and nurturing within these smaller communities. Stakes are made up of multiple wards and serve as larger organizational units within a geographic region. Stake leaders provide guidance and oversight to local leaders and coordinate various programs and activities that benefit members and the community.

A Lay Ministry

The LDS Church maintains a unique approach to its ministry. Unlike many other religious organizations, the LDS Church does not have paid clergy. Instead, it operates with a lay ministry, where members of the Church serve in various leadership and teaching positions on a voluntary basis. This emphasis on volunteer service allows individuals to develop leadership skills, share their talents, and contribute to the growth and well-being of the community. The lay ministry fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among members and strengthens the bonds of unity and service.

Women’s Roles and Responsibilities

Latter-day Saint women play significant roles within the Church. Women have their own organization, known as the Relief Society, which focuses on service, personal development, and spiritual growth. Women serve in various leadership positions within the Relief Society and the broader Church, and their contributions are valued and recognized. Women are encouraged to be active participants in gospel learning and teaching, and their insight and perspective are valued in the decision-making processes of the Church.

Commitment to Service

Service is a foundational principle within the LDS Church. Members are encouraged to follow the example of Jesus Christ and reach out to those in need, both within and outside of the Church. Service can take many forms, from offering emotional support to providing physical assistance. Through various service projects, humanitarian efforts, and active participation in community initiatives, Latter-day Saints seek to make a positive difference in the lives of others. This commitment to service reflects the belief in the importance of loving and caring for one’s fellow beings as part of a Christ-centered life.

Education and Career

Emphasis on Education and Lifelong Learning

Latter-day Saints place a strong emphasis on education and lifelong learning. Members are encouraged to seek out both secular and religious education as a means to develop their talents, expand their knowledge, and contribute to society. Education is seen as a way to fulfill personal potential, enhance individual well-being, and serve others. The LDS Church operates several religious educational institutions, such as Brigham Young University, which provide opportunities for higher education within a faith-based environment. Additionally, members are encouraged to dedicate time and effort to continuous learning throughout their lives.

Religious Educational Institutions

The LDS Church operates religious educational institutions that provide opportunities for members to receive a higher education within a faith-based environment. Brigham Young University (BYU) is the flagship university of the LDS Church and offers a wide range of academic programs. The mission of BYU is to provide a quality education while instilling values and principles consistent with LDS teachings. In addition to BYU, the Church operates other smaller colleges and institutes around the world, providing educational opportunities for students of all ages.

Balancing Faith and Career

The LDS faith teaches the importance of finding a balance between faith and career. While members are encouraged to pursue meaningful and fulfilling careers, they are also taught to prioritize their relationship with God and their commitment to family and community. This emphasis on balance helps individuals navigate their professional lives in a way that aligns with their beliefs and values. Balancing faith and career involves making choices that are consistent with the teachings of the Church, maintaining integrity in the workplace, and prioritizing family and personal well-being.

Work Ethics and Honesty

Work ethics and honesty are highly valued principles within the LDS faith. Members are taught to work diligently and to be honest in all their dealings. This includes being trustworthy and reliable in their professional responsibilities, treating others with respect and fairness, and upholding high moral standards. The LDS Church teaches that honest labor is not only a means to provide for oneself and one’s family but also a way to serve God and contribute to the welfare of society. These principles of work ethics and honesty are foundational to living a Christ-centered life.


The LDS faith encourages members to engage in philanthropy and contribute to the well-being of others. As faithful stewards of their resources, members are encouraged to give generously to charitable causes and to provide assistance to those in need. The LDS Church operates a comprehensive welfare system that seeks to alleviate poverty, promote self-reliance, and assist individuals and families in times of crisis. Members are encouraged to donate not only financially but also through volunteer service and acts of kindness. Philanthropy is seen as a means to emulate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and to help build a better world for all.

Unique Teachings

Preexistence and Eternal Progression

One of the unique teachings of the LDS faith is the belief in a preexistence and the concept of eternal progression. Latter-day Saints believe that all human beings lived with God as spirits before coming to earth and that they made choices and learned important lessons in that premortal existence. They also believe that life on earth is a time of testing and growth, where individuals have the opportunity to progress and become more like God. This belief in an eternal journey of learning and progression influences the way members approach life, seeking to constantly improve and develop their character and attributes.

The Eternal Family

The LDS faith places significant emphasis on the eternal nature of families. Latter-day Saints believe that the family unit can continue beyond mortality and that through sacred ordinances performed in temples, families can be sealed together for eternity. This belief gives great hope and comfort to members and fosters a deep sense of commitment to strengthen and nurture family relationships. The eternal family teaches that families can be together not only in this life but also in the life to come.

Baptism for the Dead

The doctrine of baptism for the dead is another distinct aspect of the LDS faith. Latter-day Saints believe that individuals who have died without the opportunity to receive essential ordinances, such as baptism, can have those ordinances performed on their behalf by living proxy. This practice takes place within temples and is seen as an act of love and service to ancestors and others who have passed away. Baptism for the dead reflects the belief in the importance of salvation for all individuals, both in this life and the next.

The Word of Wisdom

The Word of Wisdom is a set of dietary guidelines and health practices revealed to Joseph Smith and is considered a unique teaching of the LDS faith. It includes abstaining from the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illicit drugs, as well as promoting moderation in the consumption of wholesome foods. The Word of Wisdom also encourages regular physical exercise and emphasizes the importance of taking care of one’s body, which is considered a temple of the Holy Spirit. Adhering to the Word of Wisdom is seen as an act of obedience and a means to maintain physical and spiritual well-being.

The Law of Chastity

The Law of Chastity is a moral principle that governs sexual purity within the LDS faith. It teaches that sexual relations should only occur between a husband and wife who are legally and lawfully married. All other forms of sexual relationships, including premarital sex, extramarital affairs, and same-sex relationships, are considered violations of this law. The Law of Chastity is seen as a way to protect the sacred nature of intimacy, to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and to promote a healthy and virtuous lifestyle.

Rejection of Traditional Christian Creeds

Differences in the Godhead

Latter-day Saints have distinct beliefs regarding the nature of the Godhead. While traditional Christian creeds teach the doctrine of the Trinity, which emphasizes the three persons of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as one being, the LDS faith teaches that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are separate and distinct beings. According to LDS teachings, the Father and the Son have physical bodies of flesh and bone, and the Holy Ghost is a spiritual being. This belief reflects the LDS doctrine of exaltation, which teaches that individuals have the potential to become like God.

Rejection of Original Sin

The LDS faith rejects the traditional Christian concept of original sin. Instead, it teaches that all individuals are born innocent and are not accountable for Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. According to LDS teachings, individuals become accountable for their own sins when they reach the age of accountability, typically around eight years old. This belief emphasizes the concept of agency, giving individuals the ability to make choices and be responsible for their own actions.

Continuation of Modern Prophets

Latter-day Saints believe in the continuation of modern prophets and apostles. While traditional Christian creeds often view the apostolic office as having ceased with the death of the original apostles, the LDS faith teaches that God continues to call prophets and apostles to lead and guide His Church. These modern-day prophets receive revelation and provide guidance for the Church and its members. The belief in the continuation of prophets reflects the concept of ongoing revelation and the belief that God’s will is communicated to His children through chosen representatives.

Plural Marriage

While no longer practiced or taught by the Church, the historical practice of plural marriage is an important aspect of LDS Church history. During the 19th century, a small number of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy under specific circumstances and under the direction of the Church leadership. This practice ended in 1890 with an official declaration prohibiting the solemnization of new plural marriages. Today, the LDS Church teaches and practices monogamy, aligning with the laws and norms of the countries in which members reside.

Diversity and Inclusion

Global Membership

The LDS Church has a worldwide membership, with congregations and members in almost every country. This global diversity is a defining characteristic of the faith. Members come from various ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, creating a rich tapestry of experiences and perspectives within the Church. The global membership reflects the belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people, regardless of their nationality, race, or background.

Embracing Diversity

The LDS Church encourages its members to embrace diversity and appreciate the unique contributions that individuals from different backgrounds bring to the Church community. Diversity is seen as a strength that enriches the lives of members and fosters unity. The LDS faith teaches the importance of treating all individuals with respect, kindness, and love, regardless of their differences. Embracing diversity goes beyond mere tolerance and includes actively seeking to understand and learn from others, promoting inclusivity and unity within the Church.

Inclusion of Women and Children

The LDS Church places great value on the inclusion and involvement of women and children. Women are active participants in the Church and have their own organization, the Relief Society, which provides opportunities for service, personal development, and spiritual growth. Women serve in various leadership positions and contribute their talents and insights within the Church community. Children are also valued members of the Church and are given opportunities to learn and grow in their faith through programs such as Primary, which focuses on the religious instruction and nurturing of children.

Outreach and Humanitarian Efforts

The LDS Church is actively engaged in outreach and humanitarian efforts, both within the Church community and in the broader world. Members are encouraged to reach out to those in need and provide assistance, support, and comfort. The Church operates various humanitarian programs, such as LDS Charities, which provides relief in times of disaster, promotes self-reliance, and addresses long-term development needs. These efforts reflect the belief in the importance of serving others and following the example of Jesus Christ in ministering to those who are less fortunate.

Seeking Unity

Latter-day Saints strive to seek unity in their relationships and interactions with others. Unity is seen as a powerful force that can overcome divisions and build bridges of understanding and love. The LDS faith encourages members to be peacemakers, to avoid contention, and to seek common ground with others. Seeking unity involves actively listening to different perspectives, finding areas of agreement, and working together for the common good. This pursuit of unity extends beyond the walls of the Church and is seen as a means to build stronger families, communities, and ultimately, a better world.

Family Centeredness

Marriage and Eternal Sealings

Marriage and family are highly valued in the LDS faith. Latter-day Saints believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and is essential for eternal progression. They also believe that families can be sealed together for eternity through sacred ordinances performed in temples. These sealings provide the opportunity for family relationships to extend beyond mortal life, creating a strong sense of familial bond and eternal commitment. The emphasis on marriage and eternal sealings underscores the importance of the family unit in the LDS faith.

Celebration of Family

Latter-day Saints place great importance on celebrating and nurturing family relationships. Family events, such as weddings, births, and reunions, are cherished occasions for members to come together and strengthen bonds. These gatherings often include prayer, scripture study, and various traditions and activities that promote unity and spiritual growth. Regular family activities, such as family prayer and family home evening, provide opportunities for communication, learning, and fostering a sense of love and belonging.

Importance of Ancestry and Genealogy

Ancestry and genealogy hold a special place in the hearts of Latter-day Saints. The LDS Church has extensive resources and programs dedicated to researching, preserving, and sharing family history. Members are encouraged to learn more about their ancestors and connect with their heritage. The belief in eternal families influences this emphasis on ancestry and genealogy, as individuals seek to understand and honor the lives of those who came before them. Exploring one’s family history is seen as a way to strengthen family bonds, gain a greater sense of identity, and remember and honor those who have gone before.

Parental Responsibility and Guidance

Latter-day Saints place a strong emphasis on parental responsibility and guidance. Parents are viewed as primary teachers and nurturers of their children and are encouraged to actively participate in the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of their families. Family prayer and scripture study, as well as regular family activities, provide opportunities for parents to teach and exemplify gospel principles. The LDS faith promotes the belief that a strong foundation in the home is essential for raising righteous children and fostering a Christ-centered environment.

Family Home Evening

Family Home Evening is a cherished tradition within the LDS faith. This dedicated time is set aside each week for families to gather together, typically on Monday evenings, for spiritual instruction, learning, and recreational activities. Family Home Evening includes prayer, scripture study, and gospel-centered discussions as well as opportunities for family members to share their talents and interests. This weekly tradition strengthens family relationships, fosters open communication, and provides a structured framework for ongoing spiritual growth and development.

Moderation and Balance

Avoidance of Extremes

The LDS faith teaches the importance of avoiding extremes and maintaining a balanced approach to life. Latter-day Saints strive to live lives of moderation, seeking to find a middle path between excess and deprivation. This includes avoiding extreme behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs and seeking harmony and balance in all aspects of life. The avoidance of extremes is seen as a way to maintain stability, personal well-being, and spiritual growth.

Emphasis on Self-Control

Self-control is a virtue highly valued within the LDS faith. Latter-day Saints believe in the principle of agency, which grants individuals the ability to make choices and be responsible for their own actions. This belief emphasizes the importance of self-control in making wise decisions and living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The development of self-control requires discipline, willpower, and a commitment to aligning one’s desires and actions with God’s will. By exercising self-control, individuals can achieve personal growth and progress along the path of discipleship.

Work-Life Balance

Latter-day Saints recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. While individuals are encouraged to work diligently and pursue meaningful careers, they are also taught the importance of dedicating time and attention to their families, personal well-being, and service to others. The LDS faith promotes the idea that a balanced life includes time for worship, leisure, recreation, and personal development. Striving for a healthy work-life balance allows individuals to prioritize their relationships and maintain a sense of overall well-being.

Financial Responsibility

The LDS Church teaches the importance of financial responsibility and stewardship. Members are encouraged to manage their finances wisely, live within their means, and avoid excessive debt. The LDS faith promotes principles such as budgeting, saving, and charitable giving, as well as honest and ethical financial practices. Financial responsibility is seen as a means to provide for oneself and one’s family, contribute to the Church and community, and ensure long-term stability and self-reliance.

Healthy Living

Latter-day Saints believe in the importance of maintaining physical health and well-being. The LDS faith promotes healthy living practices, including proper nutrition, regular exercise, and abstaining from harmful substances. These principles are rooted in the belief that the body is a sacred creation and should be treated with respect and care. The pursuit of physical health is seen as a means to honor the divine gift of the body, ensure a strong foundation for spiritual growth, and fulfill personal potential.

Latter-day Saint Culture

Music and Performing Arts

Music and the performing arts hold a special place within Latter-day Saint culture. The LDS Church has a rich tradition of hymnody and choral music, with hymns playing a prominent role in worship services and other gatherings. Music is seen as a powerful means of expressing faith, fostering worship, and building community. The performing arts, including theater, dance, and visual arts, are also valued within the LDS community and provide opportunities for creative expression, personal growth, and cultural enrichment.

Genealogy Research

Genealogy research is an integral part of Latter-day Saint culture. The LDS Church has one of the world’s largest genealogical databases and operates FamilySearch, a comprehensive online platform dedicated to preserving and sharing family history. Members are encouraged to engage in genealogical research, discover their ancestors, and connect with their heritage. Genealogy research is seen as a way to strengthen family bonds, foster a sense of identity, and honor the lives of those who have come before.

Latter-day Saint Jargon

Latter-day Saints have their own unique jargon and vocabulary that is reflective of their distinct culture and belief system. This jargon includes terms such as “testimony” (a personal witness of truth), “ward” (a local congregation), “stake” (a larger organizational unit), and “wardrobe” (a meetinghouse), among many others. These terms and phrases have specific meanings and connotations within the LDS community and are a reflection of the shared experiences and beliefs of its members.

Missionary Culture

Missionary culture is an important aspect of LDS faith and culture. Serving a full-time mission is seen as a valuable and transformative experience for young men and women. Missionaries often adopt specific norms and practices, such as wearing formal attire and adhering to strict rules of conduct and behavior. The mission experience provides opportunities for personal growth, cultural immersion, and the sharing of the gospel message with others. Missionary culture is characterized by dedication, sacrifice, and a commitment to representing Jesus Christ and His Church.

Welfare System

The welfare system is an integral part of LDS culture and reflects the belief in caring for and serving others. The LDS Church operates a comprehensive welfare system that provides assistance to individuals and families in times of need. This system includes programs such as employment assistance, food production, healthcare, and emergency response. Members are encouraged to contribute to the welfare system through monetary donations, volunteer service, and the donation of goods and resources. The welfare system is seen as a manifestation of the principle of consecration and a means to alleviate suffering and promote self-reliance within the Church community.