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Dear Gramps,

I am trying to understand your religion more so that I can learn to appreciate it better. If you could be so kind to answer the following two questions I would be most appreciative;

1) Describe art, symbols, images, cultic objects that your religion has

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2) Whose needs are you meeting? And why do you think your religion has spread to South Florida:? How does if influence the community and its leadership?

Mary

 

Answer

 

Dear Mary,

First, let me quote one of the General Authorities of the Mormon Church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, on the subject of art—

“The promoters of darkness often seem to have direct access to the media microphone. We may not be able to take that away from them, but we can at least raise our own voices. We can teach correct principles often and in as many ways as possible.

“Since darkness is the absence of light, surely the most powerful way to counter darkness is to fill the world with light. One of my associates observed recently:

“Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time.’Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs” (Robert D. Hales, in Conference Report, Apr 2002, 80-81; or Ensign, May 2002, 70).

“Is it not part of our work as sons and daughters of God to encourage creative efforts that dispel darkness and replace it with light? .. [and] to promote positive and uplifting education and entertainment? How powerful a force for good would be a renaissance in literature, art, technology, and science that adds light rather than takes it away! Such a renaissance is possible. There are among us artists and artisans who need only to receive a little more support and encouragement from men and women of conscience to produce works that could rival those that half a millennium ago marked the end of Europe’s Dark Age and the rise of a wonderful new cultural and spiritual Renaissance.

“As we fill the earth with art (and media) that is good and uplifting—as we fill the earth with light and knowledge—our children will see the darkness for what it is. They will see that it is counterfeit, that it brings only sorrow, pain, and emptiness. They will come to prefer light and be attracted to that which is good and true…children don’t—indeed, can’t—fight their battles alone.”

Let me also quote from an article called “The Church Goes Forward,” in the official Mormon Church magazine, the Ensign, by a former president of the Mormon Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as he commented on the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City—

“Georgie Anne Geyer, prominent syndicated writer whose column appears in many newspapers, wrote as follows: How on earth could a largely Mormon state do something so daring as hosting an international celebrity meeting? Would the world come gladly to a state whose dominant religion asks members to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine, three staples of international conferences?

 

“And then she went on to quote Raymond T. Grant, artistic director of the Olympic Arts Festival. He talked of the opening ceremony and said: You know, 98 percent of the entire cast were volunteers, and that’s huge. In fact, most were not paid at all. This is an extraordinary story, and I’d link it directly to Mormon culture. As a Catholic boy from New York, I found it interesting that Brigham Young, the founder of the Utah settlement of the Mormons, built a theater before anything else.

 

“He went on to tally up: The state has six dance companies; more pianos and harps are sold in Utah than anywhere in the United States; the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has [360] members; and the oldest Steinway dealership in Utah was started as early as 1862. In Utah, their per capita spending on students is one of the lowest yet they boast high test scores. It has been fascinating for me, having to tap into this culture.” (Ensign (CR), May 2002, p.4

With respect to symbols, there are many symbolic things in the Mormon Church. Of course, symbols are everywhere, in every culture. Even the written language is symbolic of the spoken word. Some of the symbols associated with Mormonism are also shared by other religions. For instance, the rite of baptism is a highly symbolic essential ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being submersed in water represents the death of the carnal man; coming forth out of the water represents the birth of the new, spiritual man. Being buried in and coming forth out of the water also represents the death and resurrection of the Savior of mankind, whose holy name we take upon ourselves when we are baptized. Being immersed in and coming out of the watery element also represents the cleansing of the person from the sins of which he has repented in order to become worthy of being baptized.

Another highly symbolic ordinance is partaking of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which is done each week in the Mormon worship service, which carries the name of the Sacrament Meeting. Bread and water are blessed by members of the Aaronic Priesthood and are passed to the members of the congregation. The bread represents the body of the Savior–in particular, the infinite suffering that He underwent, in both body and spirit, as He paid the full price to an eternal justice for all the sins that have or ever will be committed by all of the children of our Father in Heaven. The water represents the blood that He shed during the infinite suffering of that most significant and all encompassing sacrifice that was so severe that it caused him,

even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that [he] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink– (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18)

Those who partake of the sacrament are enjoined to spend that time in prayer of remembrance and gratitude for that great atoning sacrifice and in renewal of the covenants made at baptism.

The architectural adornments of the Salt Lake Temple, the first temple to be constructed by the members of the Mormon Church after they were driven from the United States by furious mobs, are highly symbolic in nature; but they are so numerous and their symbolism is so complex that it would take the length of a book to explain them. In fact such a book has been written–Celestial Symbols–Symbolism in Doctrine, Religious Traditions and Temple Architecture, by Allen H. Barber, Horizon Publishers, Bountiful, Utah, 1939.

With respect to images, the Mormon Church follows the dictum of the second of the Ten Commandments,

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

 

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

 

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments

That does not mean that sculptors are forbidden to practice their art. But the images they create, although some may be religious in nature, are by no means objects of worship; they are objects of art.

Cultic objects— Your reference to cultic objects implies that the Mormon Church is some sort of a cult, i.e., a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious. The Mormon Church may indeed be regarded as unorthodox, as orthodoxy would be defined by the sectarian churches of the day. But the insinuation that it would be a spurious religion, or unorthodox in the eyes of God, who indeed is the judge of all, is highly offensive to the members of the Mormon Church, who are as devout to their religion and as adherent to its doctrines as any other religious organization with whom it could be compared.

Whose needs is the Mormon Church meeting? For one, it met the needs of the victims of hurricane Andrew in Florida, and the victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. More recently the flooding in Texas due to the hurricane  With respect to disaster relief in New Orleans, many of the victims said that there were two churches in particular that helped with disaster relief–the Mormon Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not realizing that they were one and the same organization. It is not well known, and certainly not advertised that the Mormon Church has a number of large semi tractor-trailers always on alert, and as storms or other potential disasters become threatening, they move into the area to be on hand when disaster strikes. The relief efforts of the Mormon Church extend into every region of the world, and offer aid where needed, without regard to race, nationality or color. Again, books could be written about the humanitarian efforts of the Mormon Church.

The Mormon Church operates a number of accredited universities, open to all students who meet the moral and scholastic entrance requirements.

The Mormon Church provides free scriptures in brail to all the blind who solicit them. The list goes on and on.

But fundamentally the Mormon Church meets the spiritual needs of every man, woman and child, offering them the way of life and salvation as dictated by the Lord, Jesus Christ, and as administered under His priesthood authority and his intimate personal leadership.

 

Gramps

 

 

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