Today we feature stories from several news outlets that explain what Mormon missionaries do, a Wall Street Journal column that provides a glimpse inside a Mormon temple, and an ABC News article that makes it clear that the Church is politically neutral and members have diverse political views.
ABC Nightline’s Bob Woodruff follows Mormon missionaries in LaPlace, Louisiana, for two days to get an inside look at what these missionaries do. Woodruff walks the streets with the missionaries and sees them share messages about Jesus Christ and perform community service — everyday activities for the Church’s 58,000-plus missionaries across the world.
One missionary Woodruff interviews says the missionaries recognize that many good people with whom they speak have faith in Christ. A key purpose of missionary work in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this missionary correctly says, is to “add to that faith in Christ.”
Houston Chronicle reporter Ruth Nasrullah tells a similar story about missionaries in Clear Lake, Texas. Mission President Brian Ashton accurately notes that missionaries “give up pretty much everything” to serve, and an average day consists of scripture study “for two to three hours … and then they go out and serve people and teach about Jesus Christ.” Elder Caden Jensen, one of Ashton’s missionaries, says one of the key lessons he’s learned from missionary service is how to work with and help people and “be a blessing to them and not a burden.”
Finally, Orange County Register columnist Teryl Zarnow interviews a father and his two sons (all returned missionaries) and learns that Mormon missionary service focuses on blessing the lives of others, while also allowing young Mormon men and women to learn humility and become acquainted with a variety of cultures. The father, Ross Palfreyman, says missionary service taught him “there are lots of wonderful people … who are God's children” and “you have to try to help them — and you love them.”
Wall Street Journal: A glimpse inside a Mormon temple, “the sacred heart of Mormonism”
John G. Turner, a religious studies professor at George Mason University, writes a thoughtful piece about Mormon temples generally and the Brigham City Utah Temple dedication specifically.
Turner takes readers through the Brigham City Temple, starting at the baptismal font that rests on the backs of 12 oxen (symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. He then leads readers into instruction rooms, where Latter-day Saints learn the purposes of life, and ordinance rooms, where couples are married and families are joined together (Mormons use the word “sealed”) for eternity. “The eternal nature of the family is at the very heart of Mormon belief,” Turner writes. “Kneeling across from each other at an altar, and with mirrors behind the man and the woman, couples can see their lives together stretch into eternity.”
Turner also correctly describes the difference between Latter-day Saint temples and chapels. Sunday worship services take place in one of the Church’s thousands of chapels across the globe and “contain elements — such as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper — familiar to Protestant and Catholic Christians.” In the Church’s 139 temples, Mormons make formal promises and commitments to God. Temples are also the place where the highest sacraments of the faith occur — the marriage of couples and the sealing of families for eternity.
For those unfamiliar with Mormons, temple open houses (held prior to each temple’s dedication) “provide a welcome chance to dispel a few of the myths surrounding” the Church, Turner writes. This is important to note because “following the dedication … admittance requires a ‘temple recommend,’ an endorsement from a local Mormon bishop.”
See an infographic that explains the difference between Mormon temples and chapels.
Although this article is politically focused, Reilly Dowd of ABC News correctly notes that the Church “has affirmed and reaffirmed its political neutrality in matters of partisan politics. Each election cycle, the highest governing body of the [the Church] known as the First Presidency, sends a letter reaffirming the church’s stance and encouraging members to cast their ballots, as citizens, for whichever candidate they believe will serve well.” Down also speaks with several Latter-day Saints who share differing political views.