Have you ever wondered why Mormons call themselves Latter Day Saints? It turns out that this seemingly simple name carries a deep meaning rooted in their beliefs and history. In this article, we will explore the origins of this title and unravel the significance it holds for the Mormon community. So, get ready to embark on a journey of discovery and gain a deeper understanding of why Mormons refer to themselves as Latter Day Saints.
Origins of the term ‘Latter Day Saints’
The term ‘Latter Day Saints’ was first used to describe the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. The phrase ‘latter days’ refers to the belief that these are the last days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The term was reportedly inspired by a passage in the book of Isaiah in the Bible, which speaks of a time when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.”
Revelation received by Joseph Smith
The religious movement that would become the LDS Church started with a revelation received by Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, in the early 19th century. According to Smith, he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, who instructed him to restore the true gospel and establish the church. This revelation solidified the belief that the ‘latter days’ had arrived and that a new religious dispensation was about to begin.
Meaning of ‘latter days’ in religious context
In a religious context, the ‘latter days’ refer to the time period leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is believed that in these days, God will restore the fullness of His gospel and prepare the world for the final judgment. The concept of ‘latter days’ emphasizes the belief that we are living in a pivotal time in history, where spiritual truths are being revealed and fulfilled prophecies are coming to pass.
Importance of the Book of Mormon
Central to the beliefs of Latter Day Saints is the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of scripture that they believe to be a companion to the Bible. According to their doctrine, the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient records by Joseph Smith under the guidance of God. They consider it to be another testament of Jesus Christ and an essential source of knowledge and spiritual guidance.
Continuation of Jesus Christ’s church
Latter Day Saints believe that their church is a continuation of the original church established by Jesus Christ during His mortal ministry. They believe that after a period of apostasy, where the true teachings of Christ were lost or distorted, the church was restored through Joseph Smith. For Mormons, the church represents a direct connection to the teachings and authority of Jesus Christ.
Restoration of the Church in the latter days
The belief in the restoration of the Church in the latter days is a fundamental aspect of Mormon theology. According to their understanding, the true church of Jesus Christ was lost over time due to corruption and the deaths of the original apostles. The restoration involved the reestablishment of the proper priesthood authority, the ordinances, and the organization of the church as it existed in ancient times.
Mormon vs. LDS
Use of the term ‘Mormon’
The term ‘Mormon’ originated as a nickname for members of the LDS Church due to their belief in the Book of Mormon. While it was initially used as a derogatory term, over time, Church leaders and members embraced the term as a convenient way to refer to themselves. However, in recent years, there has been a shift in the preference for using the full name of the Church.
Preference for ‘Latter Day Saints’
In an effort to emphasize their identity as followers of Jesus Christ, members of the LDS Church have expressed a preference for being called ‘Latter Day Saints.’ This represents their desire to be recognized as a Christian denomination and to highlight their commitment to the restoration of the early Christian Church. It is seen as a way to differentiate themselves from other religious groups and clarify their religious beliefs and practices.
Official name of the Church
The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This name was given by revelation to Joseph Smith and reflects the central role of Jesus Christ in the church’s teachings and beliefs. It is a direct reminder of the restoration of the church in the latter days and serves as a testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith as the church’s prophet.
Emphasis on divine authority
Latter Day Saints place great emphasis on the concept of divine authority. They believe that authority to act in God’s name, known as the priesthood, was restored through Joseph Smith. This authority is essential for performing sacred ordinances such as baptism and the administration of the sacrament. It is also believed to be necessary for leading and governing the church with the guidance and inspiration of God.
Belief in ongoing revelation
Latter Day Saints believe in ongoing revelation, meaning that God continues to communicate with His children through prophets and other inspired individuals. They view this as a key characteristic of the latter days, where God’s guidance and instructions are crucial for navigating the challenges of the modern world. This belief in ongoing revelation provides a sense of direction, comfort, and guidance to members of the LDS Church.
Special role of the prophet
In the LDS Church, the prophet holds a special position as the mouthpiece of God on Earth. They are believed to receive revelations and guidance directly from God for the benefit of the church and its members. The prophet’s role is seen as vital in leading and guiding the church according to God’s will. Their words are considered scripture and are to be revered and followed by members of the faith.
Relevance to the Restoration
Link to Joseph Smith’s revelations
The concept of the ‘latter days’ and the restoration of the Church are intimately connected to the revelations received by Joseph Smith. It is through these revelations that Smith claimed to have received clear instructions from God to restore the true gospel and establish the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The concept of ‘latter days’ reinforces the belief that these revelations were a significant milestone in the history of religious restoration.
Restoration of original Church organization
Another aspect of the LDS Church’s beliefs relating to the ‘latter days’ is the restoration of the original organization of the early Christian Church. According to their teachings, Joseph Smith received direct guidance from God on how to structure the church and its leadership positions. This restoration included the establishment of apostles, prophets, and other priesthood offices, mirroring the organization that existed in New Testament times.
Preparation for the Second Coming
The belief in the ‘latter days’ serves as a reminder of the preparation needed for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Latter Day Saints see this time period as a crucial opportunity to align themselves with God’s will, repent, and strive to become more like Christ. It is believed that these actions will not only prepare individuals for the Second Coming but also contribute to the overall spiritual preparation of the world.
Usage of the term in the Book of Mormon
The term ‘latter days’ is mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon, reinforcing its significance in the LDS Church’s theology. It is often used to refer to the time period when the gospel will be restored and made available to all nations and peoples. The Book of Mormon provides additional teachings and prophecies regarding the ‘latter days,’ including warnings, promises, and guidance for believers.
Prophecies about the ‘latter days’
Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain prophecies regarding the ‘latter days.’ These prophecies speak of events and conditions that will take place before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. They include warnings of wars, natural disasters, and spiritual apostasy, as well as promises of blessings and the eventual triumph of righteousness. Latter Day Saints study and interpret these prophecies in the context of their own beliefs and expectations for the future.
Clarification of the term in Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants, another book of scripture considered authoritative by Latter Day Saints, provides further clarification on the meaning of the term ‘latter days.’ It contains revelations given to Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, addressing specific issues and concerns of the early church. The Doctrine and Covenants offers insights into the purpose and significance of the ‘latter days’ in the context of the church’s ongoing restoration and its ultimate role in ushering in the Second Coming of Christ.
Recognition of Other Christian Denominations
Acknowledgment of other believers as Christians
Latter Day Saints acknowledge and recognize other Christian denominations as fellow believers in Jesus Christ. Though they may have theological differences and varying interpretations of scripture, the LDS Church respects the sincere faith and efforts of individuals in other Christian traditions. This recognition is grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ is the central figure and Savior of all humankind, regardless of specific doctrinal differences.
Respect for religious diversity
The LDS Church places a strong emphasis on the importance of religious freedom and respects the right of individuals to worship according to their conscience. They believe that diversity in religious beliefs can lead to a deeper understanding of God and the pursuit of truth. This respect for religious diversity extends to members of other faiths and is seen as a way to foster unity, understanding, and mutual respect among people of different religious backgrounds.
Unique theological perspectives
Despite acknowledging the shared beliefs and experiences with other Christians, Latter Day Saints also recognize their distinctive theological perspectives. These perspectives include unique teachings regarding the nature of God, the purpose of life, and the eternal potential of individuals. While some of these teachings may differ from mainstream Christian thought, they are embraced as vital aspects of their religious identity and beliefs.
Continuation of the Church
Reaffirmation of Jesus Christ’s teachings
The LDS Church sees itself as a continuation of the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ. Through their belief in the restoration of the church, they strive to follow Christ’s example and teachings in their daily lives. Members of the LDS Church seek to embrace the principles of love, service, and forgiveness taught by Jesus Christ and use them as a foundation for their faith and actions.
Restoration of priesthood authority
Another significant aspect of the LDS Church’s continuation is the restoration of priesthood authority. According to their beliefs, the priesthood, which is the authority to act in God’s name, was lost after the deaths of the original apostles. Through Joseph Smith, this authority was restored, allowing for the performance of sacred ordinances, such as baptism and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This restoration is seen as a vital element in the ongoing work and progress of the church.
Organization of a modern-day church
The restoration of the church in the ‘latter days’ also includes the organization of a modern-day church structure. Inspired by the structure of the early Christian Church, the LDS Church has a hierarchical organization that includes apostles, prophets, bishops, and other leaders. This organizational structure allows for the distribution of responsibilities, the administration of church affairs, and the guidance of members as they strive to live according to their faith.
Identification as ‘saints’ in the biblical sense
Latter Day Saints identify themselves as ‘saints’ in the biblical sense of the word. They believe that all followers of Jesus Christ can be called saints because of their commitment to living according to His teachings and seeking personal holiness. This identification represents their dedication to living a virtuous and Christ-centered life, striving for continued spiritual growth and improvement.
Desire to differentiate from mainstream Christianity
By adopting the term ‘Latter Day Saints,’ members of the LDS Church express their desire to differentiate themselves from mainstream Christianity while still acknowledging their Christian roots. They view themselves as a unique religious movement with distinctive beliefs and practices, while also recognizing their shared foundation in the teachings of Jesus Christ. This desire for differentiation reflects the importance of their specific religious identity and their commitment to the restoration of the early Christian Church.
Symbolic representation of their faith
The identification as ‘Latter Day Saints’ serves as a symbolic representation of their faith and beliefs. It encompasses their role as part of the ongoing restoration of the gospel and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on Earth. It also represents their hope and anticipation of the Second Coming and the fulfillment of God’s promises. The term ‘Latter Day Saints’ serves as a reminder of their unique identity and their shared commitment to living according to the principles and values of their faith.
Sense of Unity
Shared religious terminology
The use of religious terminology, such as ‘latter days’ and ‘Latter Day Saints,’ creates a sense of unity among members of the LDS Church. This shared vocabulary helps to establish a common understanding and serves as a basis for communication and identification. It fosters a sense of belonging and solidarity, connecting individuals from different backgrounds and cultures through their shared religious experiences and beliefs.
Collective identity as ‘Latter Day Saints’
Identifying as ‘Latter Day Saints’ creates a collective identity for members of the LDS Church. This identity goes beyond individual beliefs and experiences and encompasses a broader sense of community and fellowship. It signifies a shared commitment to follow Jesus Christ, embrace His teachings, and participate in the ongoing restoration of the gospel. This collective identity provides a sense of belonging and support, particularly in the face of challenges and opposition faced by the Church.
Unifying principles and values
The beliefs and teachings of the LDS Church serve as unifying principles and values for its members. Commitment to living according to these principles fosters a shared sense of purpose and direction. This unity is further strengthened through collective worship, participation in ordinances, and adherence to moral and ethical standards. The unifying principles and values promote a sense of harmony, bonding members together as they strive to live their faith and fulfill their religious obligations.
In conclusion, the term ‘Latter Day Saints’ holds great significance for members of the LDS Church. It symbolizes their belief in the restoration of the gospel in the ‘latter days’ and their commitment to follow Jesus Christ. The term underscores their distinctive religious beliefs, practices, and organization, while also acknowledging their Christian identity. It serves as a unifying force, creating a collective sense of identity, purpose, and unity among members as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of the modern world in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.