Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Mormons Believe in Dinosaurs?

In my experience talking with people who are comfortable enough to ask about interesting beliefs they've heard about "Mormons," I've heard some interesting tales. Anything from having horns to all living in nine-story houses to blood sacrifices in the temple (what?) to more legitimate questions such as current practices of polygamy or not being able to drink caffeinated beverages. (None of the above are true ps...)

The most recent fallacy I heard was from a good friend who asked whether I believe dinosaurs once existed. I was a bit taken aback and gave some answer like, "Yeah, what? There are like fossils and stuff, of course dinosaurs are real... What? Yeah I believe dinosoaurs are real..." After which a few other false and super strange beliefs were cleared up and we carried on with practice.

Here's the deal: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are different in some, if not a lot, of ways. The apostle Peter referred to the early saints as "a peculiar people," (1 Peter 2:9) and that is what we are. We don't drink, not just not excessively but not even a beer to relax or a glass of wine with dinner. We don't smoke and we don't drink coffee, no matter how early our day starts. Instead, the Lord counsels us to, "retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124). We don't curse, we don't mark our bodies with tattoos or excessive piercings, we don't wear revealing clothing, and we are taught to live a law of chastity, forbidding all sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage and complete fidelity within marriage.Why? Because, as the apostle Paul taught, our bodies are temples and sacred gifts from God.
My little bro and his wife.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy for the temple of God in holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). We get married to the love of our lives without first moving in together, and, in some cases, members of the Church more children than the national average. And that because families are the core unit in God's plan and when marriages are sealed by the priesthood of God in His holy temples, family relationships become eternal. We marry in the temple without fanfare and at the risk of exclusion of those close friends and family who may not be worthy or able to attend the temple so that we can be sealed for time and all eternity and not just until death do you part.

We strive to keep the Sabbath day holy which means we try not to work on Sundays, we attend our Sunday church meetings (three hours at a minimum), we don't participate in sporting events, go shopping, or engage in other normal daily activities on Sunday. Indeed, we strive to treat Sunday as a different day, not just another day of the week or an extra day to play or lounge around. Sunday means something to me. Sunday is "a day appointed unto [us] to rest from [our] labors, and to pay [our] devotions unto the Most High" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:10).

As part of always striving to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9), members of the Church are counseled to stay away from TV, movies, music, and other media that does not uphold the standards by which we live. This includes a lot of if not most movies (including those with "just that one bad part") and a lot of popular TV shows and songs. We are to stay away from those places and avoid being in environments that are not conducive to the Holy Ghost, even if we ourselves are not necessarily doing anything wrong.

In addition to those "peculiar" things that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't do, there are a lot of things that we do that may seem peculiar. We study the scriptures daily, pray individually and as a family, and more than just a quick, "help me God" in times of absolute need. We make sacrifices, personal, career, or otherwise, for our families or that we may have families. As discussed above, we go to church and do certain things on Sunday in order to pay our devotions to God. Each member of the Church also has additional responsibilities other than simply attending church meetings as there is no paid ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Which means additional time throughout the week being spent on Church duties and making sure each of the members of the Church in our area is watched over and taken care of.

And then there are all of the "Mormon culture" things too. Married early, big families, game nights, ice cream, Eagle scouts, church activities with lots of casseroles and jello perhaps. Everyone being related to someone in Utah if not actually from Utah themselves, BYU, wedding receptions, you can probably name many more than me since I live it and I think most of my life is pretty "normal." And of course some peculiar cultural things are not doctrinally founded but unfortunately exist nonetheless.

Of course, no one who has ever walked the earth is perfect save Jesus Christ. Which means that you will encounter members of the Church including myself who do not live according to every doctrine and principle of the gospel. I strive, as do most of the members of the Church, to follow the example of the Savior and do as the Lord commands. But I often fall short, I give in to peer pressure or to the natural man, but I strive to do better next time. Therein lies the key to success and the purpose of life. The Savior atoned for the sins of all mankind and He forgives us and helps us as we fall and get back up to try again.

Amidst all of these peculiar things that are real, you don't need to buy in to all the crazy things you may hear, even if you find one member of the Church who does it. As with all things, look to the majority before you stereotype. In addition, the doctrines of Jesus Christ do not dictate beliefs concerning every single thing ever to be addressed. Whether or not Pangea once existed or whether man walked on the moon or the timing of the end of the world has no significant bearing on our eternal salvation. The Lord and His servants the prophets are much more concerned with teaching us to love our neighbors as ourselves and instruct us on the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end of this life that we may have eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see Matt 22:36-39; 2 Nephi 25:23-26; 31:1-21; Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

That being said, please, if you have any questions or concerns or things you kind of want to clear up concerning the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please ask, regardless of how ridiculous they may sound. I do not, of course, criticize the questions asked about our faith and would much rather address and clear up the most ridiculous of beliefs than to have you continue thinking they may be true.

Yes, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people. And I like it.


See also:
President Boyd K. Packer, "A Defense and A Refuge," Ensign, Nov 2006
Elder William Grant Bangerter, "What's Wrong With Being Peculiar?," Liahona, Mar 1983