Devoted to increasing understanding and interfaith dialogue between Mormons and Muslims around the world.
During recent years, many Mormons have had the opportunity to visit, work and live in the Middle East. They along with other ex-pats, find it a culturally enriching experience to be among new surroundings with different customs, traditions and ideologies. For many foreigners, however, it is a challenge to adjust to the more restrictive lifestyle found in Islamic countries than in their homelands. But, for Mormons, there is a definite sense of familiarity, even comfort in the recognition of righteous laws and attitudes that the Islamic lifestyle affords. When Mormons study Islam further, they are immediately struck by the similarity of the basic tenets to that which they already believe. The pillars of Islam, belief in angels, Unity of God, prophets, submission and obedience, and health codes are just some of the meeting points between both religions. Over the years, as Mormons have interacted with Muslims in a variety of venues, many questions have been raised about these Muslim/ Mormon connections. It is hoped that this pamphlet will answer some of those questions by providing basic information from the Mormon standpoint as asked from a Muslim perspective, the goal being mutual respect for the same path (tariqah) which God has revealed to both.
A Mormon is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church). While we refer to ourselves as Latter-day Saints, most people call us Mormons because of our belief in The Book of Mormon. This book is a religious record written by prophets who lived in both the Middle East and the Americas during a 1000-year period from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. (mayladia). Joseph Smith translated this record into English through the power of God in 1825. It is a book of scripture unique to our religion in the Christian world and contains many revelations of God to prophets who lived on the American hemisphere prior to the time of Mohammed (PBUH). It is thought by scholars that the first prophet mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Lehi, is the ancient prophet Hud, the same as is mentioned in the Quran. The Book of Mormon begins with Lehi's journey from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. as he traveled to the Americas with his family.
The record then details the religious history of his descendants and ends with the prophet Mormon's writings in 400 A.D. It is called the Book of Mormon because Mormon was the last prophet to write in the book and he compiled the other prophets' records together. Many of the prophets' teachings in the Book of Mormon help to clarify the teachings in the Bible that have otherwise been lost or distorted. The Book of Mormon also contains the account of Jesus the Messiah's (PBUH) visit to people on the American continent in A.D. 33 after his life in the Holy Land. It is a second witness to Jesus' (PBUH) teachings and proof that he lives still.
As mentioned, belief in the Book of Mormon is one difference between Latter-day Saints and other Christian religions. Also, Mormons believe that there are modern-day prophets who have the authority to act in God's name even today. Our first prophet, Joseph Smith was just a young boy at the age of 14 in 1820 when he received his first vision from God. He was so confused by the many different religions of his time that he asked God in prayer to tell him which one he should join. God and Jesus Christ (PBUH) appeared to him in this vision and spoke directly to him. They told him that none of the Christian faiths at that time still contained the pure truth, and that if he would remain faithful, God would use him as a messenger to restore the truth once again.
Ten years later in 1830, Joseph Smith was given further revelations to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of these direct revelations that Joseph received are contained in The Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which is also considered by Mormons to be a book of modern scripture. Since Joseph Smith's day, there has always been a living prophet at the head of the Church who receives modern revelation for our time.
Our prophet today is Gordon B. Hinkley who serves as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every six months, members of the church are privileged to gather together in Salt Lake City, Utah, to hear the prophet, his counselors, apostles and other authorities speak. They give us guidance and God's word today to help us follow Him more diligently and avoid the pitfalls of the world. Click here to view recent transcripts of conference talks.
Another difference between Mormons and other Christian sects is our belief that God the Father is only one being. He is a separate and distinct entity, totally individual in character and authority. Jesus Christ (PBUH) and the Holy Ghost are not combined with Him into one being or essence. Jesus (PBUH) and the Holy Ghost are also separate entities and they are subordinate to God the Father in authority. They act with Him in an organized Godhead that is one in purpose in order to carry out His will for all of us. We do not worship Jesus (PBUH), his mother Mary, the Holy Ghost, or any other saintly people instead of or as a part of God the Father. We know that God (Allah) is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient and possesses all of the other attributes as found in His 99 names in Islam. He oversees all of His creations and is cognizant of all our actions.
He is the only God to whom we pray and there is no other being who can displace or approach His glory or position. Our life is to be in submission and obedience in all things to His will and we seek to live worthy of being in His presence after our earthly life is ended. We should give thanks to Him for all things and strive to serve Him with all our hearts, might, minds and strength. We believe that He is a compassionate and merciful God who created men in His own image and likeness. All of humanity are our brothers and sisters through Adam (koolana beni Adam) and therefore children of our Heavenly Father who created us.
LDS doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ is our elder brother (the firstborn spirit of our Heavenly Father) who came to this earth in the bodily nature and form of a mortal man. We do believe that Jesus the Messiah (PBUH) is the literal Son of God since God the Father was directly responsible for his creation. However, he did not come to earth as a God or to replace God. His conception and birth were different from any other human being. He did not have an earthly father who begat him physically. He was created by God through the Holy Ghost which came upon Mary and she conceived and bore a "holy son" (ghalama zakiya) (Sura 19:19). Because Jesus (PBUH) had no earthly father, and God was directly involved in creating him, we refer to Jesus (PBUH) as the only “begotten” son of God. No other human being on the earth has ever been created directly by the power of God through a mortal mother as was Jesus (PBUH). When we speak of him as the begotten son of God, we are not referring to an act of physical union of sex between God and Mary similar to the process through which the rest of us have been conceived. We do not know how the actual process of conception took place. Rather, it refers to God's role in taking a direct part in Jesus' (PBUH) creation and of Jesus’ role as being the Savior of this world through his mission of the atonement. Mormons believe that Jesus is the Messiah ('esa meseh). That was his special mission and purpose here on earth. He came to "erase" or “wipe away” (as Messiah literally means in Arabic) our sins and provide a way for all of us to return into God's presence in a clean state if we choose to repent. Unlike other Christian faiths, we believe our sins are a result of our own disobedience and not because of Adam's original transgression in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, a way had to be provided for us to individually repent of our own sins. This was Jesus' (PBUH) special mission that we call the atonement (also the words intercession and mediation are used to describe this act). We believe this is why Jesus (PBUH) is named the Messiah (meseh), or one who erases. This is also the reason he needed to be created by God directly, so that he would have the power to perform the atonement in our behalf when the time came. Jesus (PBUH) made an earthly sacrifice for us in order to pay the debt of justice for all of our earthly sins. It is through the mercy of God in providing us a Savior that forgiveness is given. Otherwise, no one would be able to return to God’s presence as we all sin and no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God. As "people of the book" (ahl al kitab), we follow Jesus' (PBUH) teachings and example and strive to become like him. He is our role model because he lived a pure and holy life in obedience to every commandment of God. He acted as a prophet to reveal God's word, performed miracles to show God's power and in every action gave glory only to God. We believe he is our Savior because of his atonement and that men must believe in him as the Messiah and be baptized in his name as he commanded in order to repent and be clean from their own sins. We believe that Jesus (PBUH) will return to the earth again before the Day of Judgment to teach all of us God's words.
Resurrection and judgment are part of God's plan for all of his children. No one will be able to avoid them and it is through them that our lives on earth are finally fulfilled. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus' (PBUH) atonement consisted of two parts. The first, as mentioned, was to provide a way for us to repent of our sins. Jesus (PBUH) fulfilled this part of the atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed and took upon himself the pains of the sins of humanity. The second part of the atonement was carried out at Calvary. Mormons believe that Jesus (PBUH) was crucified on the cross, but that he was "raised to life" (Sura 19:33) as a result. Indeed, the Jews did not crucify and kill him as they thought they had. He was risen and taken into God's presence where he is still alive today. Because Jesus (PBUH) was the first to be raised to life and return to God, we believe that all mankind will be raised also on the Day of Resurrection, then to undergo God's judgment and receive their just rewards. On the Day of Judgment, the books will be opened and all men and women will have a perfect knowledge of their actions, thoughts and intents, both good and evil. Those people who have led righteous lives, obedient and submissive with honest intent to all of God's commandments, will be able to dwell in God's presence in heaven with their families for eternity. Those people who have chosen to disobey God and follow Satan's path in this life will not be allowed to remain in God's presence and will spend eternity in a lesser place of glory forever. All of God's prophets have warned mankind against Satan's plan and that we must use our freedom of choice to choose God's path so as to be one of the righteous on Judgment Day.
Through the millennia, God has sent many messengers to earth to declare His word. Every nation has had a prophet who has spoken in the language of his own people so that God's message could be made plain and every age has its scriptures as a result. We believe as do Muslims in all the scriptures that God has revealed and that mankind will be judged from these books and the prophets' words on the Day of Judgment. We also do not draw lines between God and His prophets and believe only in some and do not believe in others. We know that there are other prophets, of whom we have not yet heard. We do not discount any scripture or message from a prophet simply because he is not from our time or does not speak our language. The Book of Mormon is one such record of God's word through prophets who lived in the ancient Americas. We also believe the Bible to be the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. There are many versions and many words have been changed over the centuries since it was originally written. This is one reason we feel grateful to have modern prophets and other books of scripture that can help to make the Bible teachings plain and separate out that which has been distorted over time.
We also feel fortunate to have the Books of Abraham and Moses (as mentioned in the Quran) which Joseph Smith was able to translate through God's power. These two books are part of The Pearl of Great Price which we also regard as scripture. Additionally, we believe in studying and learning wisdom out of all good books, learning of other nations, histories and laws. We delight in learning any teaching of God to any people at any time and truly enjoy being in the company of other righteous followers of God who seek to learn His truths, whatever their religion and nationality.
God has many means of revealing His message to mankind. Throughout the ages, prophets have been called by authority to act in God's name. To some prophets, God has spoken directly, while to other prophets He has sent angels to declare His words. Angels are the messengers and servants of God. Their duties include warning, protecting, chastising, prophesying and revealing God's truths. They come from God's presence and are immortal beings that we can see. For Mormons, the visits of the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to reveal the Quran are completely believable because the prophet Joseph Smith received the original record of the Book of Mormon through a visit from the angel Moroni. Belief in angels and prophets go hand-in-hand. We do not worship angels, but recognize that they are an important way God communicates with mankind. There are also other means of revelation from God, including dreams, visions and inspiration. Mormons believe that each of us is capable of receiving personal revelation in our life from God (ilham). As we follow His words and are obedient and submissive to His will, we are entitled to receive answers to our prayers and guidance and direction for our lives. These answers may come to us directly through a dream or as simply as a strong impression or thought. We believe that the Holy Ghost can be with us to inspire our thoughts, testify of truth and teach us what to do. If we will hearken to the word of God by studying the scriptures and ask questions in prayer, exercising faith in God, we will receive answers and inspiration to guide us down the straight path.
Each time that God has sent a prophet to a nation, He has revealed to them a code for living (shari'ah) which includes ways and modes of worship, moral standards, and laws that prescribe and define judgments between right and wrong. One attribute of God is that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is unchanging and consistent in His dealings with mankind. His requirements for a righteous lifestyle are unchanging and have been consistently revealed to every generation. Among these codes are bearing witness, prayer, fasting, paying alms, pilgrimage and struggle against evil.
First and foremost, in every age God reveals His true nature to His children. He is a perfect being with all the attributes and characteristics of perfection. Joseph Smith said that in order to know God so that we may worship Him properly, we must first know His character and attributes. Then, we can bear witness of Him and have an unshakable faith arising out of knowledge and conviction. Latter-day Saints bear testimony that they know that God lives and that He directs our lives. Through personal revelation (ilham) from the Holy Ghost who testifies of all truth, we know that this is true. Also, we know that God has sent His prophets to teach us and that these men are called of God. We also bear witness of the truth of all the books of God that contain His words to guide us. We know that Jesus lives and is the Messiah of this world. Such is our knowledge and conviction that we testify to the world.
Prayer is a commandment of God and is a means where we can worship and communicate with Him. Mormons are commanded to pray morning, noon and night, to pray in all places as well as at home, and when we are not able to pray aloud, to pray to Him in our hearts continually.
We do not follow any special preparations for prayer other than to keep a reverent posture with our heads bowed and eyes closed in order to concentrate. Many times we pray while on our knees with our arms folded across our chests, but the emphasis is not on the position, but in being reverent as we offer the prayer. We do not use set memorized words, except for the performance of ordinances, such as baptism and sacrament prayers. Rather, we express our hearts to God openly (dua’a) in sincerity of intent using respectful language (Thee, Thy, Thou). We pray directly to God without the need of other saints or intermediaries. We are commanded to express gratitude for all things and to ask for our needs. We know that He has knowledge of these things before we ask, but we exercise faith through the act of prayer. We close our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ (PBUH), not as a mode of worship, but as recognition of his role as our Savior and because we have been commanded to ask the Father for all things in his name. It is God who hears and answers our prayers and only He to whom we direct our thoughts and worship while praying.
Fasting is another common law given to every time and people. It is another opportunity to show that we are being physically obedient to God. Mormons go without food or drink of any kind for approximately 24 hours on the first Sunday of every month (first Friday in Middle Eastern countries). For example, we will eat dinner Thursday night and then fast until dinner on Friday. The monetary equivalent of the two meals we miss (breakfast and lunch) is given as a fasting offering for the relief of the poor. Fasting has many spiritual benefits besides the common physical ones. It gives us a chance to center our thoughts and actions more perfectly on God, to spend time reading His word and worshipping Him through prayer. When we feel hungry, we are reminded that we are acting in submission and obedience to God's law and can draw close to Him in attitude and thought because of our sacrifice.
We fast to show our devotion and commitment to God as well as to increase our own patience, tolerance and humility. We do not announce the fact openly that we are fasting, as the intent is to make a personal sacrifice, not to show our piety for the benefit of others. Fasting helps us to exert control and discipline over our bodily hungers and passions and allows us to have a clearer vision of our spiritual needs and the needs of others. In our worship services on fast days, we take the opportunity to bear testimony of God and His influence in our lives. We convey gratitude for His blessings and strengthen one another through expression of conviction that He directs our lives.
In order to provide relief for the poor and needy, God has commanded us to pay alms. Mormons pay 10% of their incomes in tithing. This is done on a regular basis all year long and the 10% is only paid upon new increase, not on the amount a person has retained through the years. God has given us all that we possess. It is not too difficult a thing to return only one tenth of the bounty He has given us. Tithing funds are used to provide for the homeless, elderly, sick; for disaster relief, famine relief, and emergencies of all kinds; for voluntary missionary work, the construction of churches and temples, subsidized education and medical aid. We believe that by paying tithing, we will be blessed in spiritual as well as physical resources. Again, it is a test of our obedience and done without praise or witnesses. It is a safeguard against selfishness and greed and is one of the first steps toward learning charity toward men. The benefits of paying tithing far outweigh the small financial sacrifice and it is one more physical way we can prove our love and devotion to God.
The pilgrimage that Mormons undertake is fulfilled when they enter a temple of God. Temples are not the same as churches. A church is a meeting place for weekly worship to which any person may attend. In order to enter a temple, a Latter-day Saint must be an active, practicing member of the Church who has maintained a standard of righteous living. An interview by two local authorities is necessary to determine if the member if completely worthy to enter that sacred place. Within the temple, ordinances are performed, such as marriage and baptisms. We believe that a marriage performed in the temple by an officiator who holds the proper priesthood authority is not only binding in this life, but will continue through eternity. Latter-day Saints make covenants with God in the temple that they will obey His laws and keep His commandments. If we keep our end of these covenants, God has promised us that we will be able to live in His presence with our family through eternity. All Mormons who attend the temple are dressed in white clothes, symbolic of the equality we all have as his children and the purity of God's presence. We consider the temple to be His house and one of the holiest places on earth.
The goal of all Latter-day Saints is to enter the temple sometime during their life after they have sufficiently prepared for it, in order to perform these ordinances and make these covenants with God. Once members have gone to the temple themselves, they can return as a proxy for those members of their families who did not have the chance to go during their lifetimes. This is why Mormons invest a great deal of energy in doing genealogy work in searching out family lines so the temple ordinances can be performed in their ancestors' behalf. There are over 100 temples throughout the world at present. The closest ones to the Middle East are in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aba, Nigeria and Bern, Switzerland.
The Book of Mormon teaches that when God commands it, a “holy war” is sometimes necessary in order to save God's righteous people from destruction by the wicked. To fight a battle in self-defense, defense of family or defense of the truth is a duty that the righteous must fulfill. It is not only a struggle against physical forces, but against the power of Satan in any form. In today's world, we believe each of us must struggle against evil and overcome the temptations and worldly influences that are found in our daily life. By submitting to God and conquering the earthly desires that we all have, we are able to purify our hearts and live a more righteous life. Latter-day Saints, therefore, take active parts in their communities to fight against such growing problems as pornography, abortion, sexual permissiveness, and alcohol or drug addiction. Our responsibility includes working with governments and other groups to create stricter legislature and to advocate better enforcement measures and safer surroundings for our families to live in all countries of the world.
God has always given each nation a very strict moral code in regards to chastity. It has always been a sin in every generation to commit adultery, fornication, and all other perverse sexual acts. To be obedient to God, we must only express our sexual desires between husband and wife within the legal and lawful contract of marriage. There should be no sex before marriage or with different partners after marriage. God's power of physically creating mortal life is a sacred gift that He has shared with us. To abuse this gift and use it improperly outside of marriage for mere physical gratification is a very serious sin and carries severe consequences for those who have given up their virtue in pursuit of pleasure. Likewise, any dress, language or attitude that promotes illicit sexual behavior is against God's law. Both men and women should avoid clothing that is immodest or promiscuous, language that promotes any kind of sexual connotation and thoughts that dwell on any sexual aspect. We should have virtuous and uplifting thoughts and behaviors at all times if we want to stay on the straight path and avoid any temptations or snares in this area.
In 1833, Joseph Smith received a revelation from God that we call the Word of Wisdom. This revelation details the substances that are permitted (halal) and prohibited (haram) if we want to keep our bodies in a clean and pure state. It is interesting to note that it has only been in recent years that some of these substances have been proven harmful and unhealthy for the body. Alcohol, tobacco, and hot drinks which have been interpreted as coffee and tea, are not allowed. Tobacco, while forbidden to inhale or chew, is also mentioned as a medicinal herb for healing bruises when used properly. This also applies to any drug which is considered halal if used properly through judgment and skill. Drugs used improperly through abuse or addiction are consequently forbidden. The list of halal substances include grains, herbs, fruits and meat in their proper season. All of these are ordained for the use of man. We believe that if we will abide by this word of wisdom, we we will receive the promised blessings of health, strength and knowledge.
Joseph Smith published these 13 articles of faith in 1842 that summarize our basic beliefs. They are as follows: 1. We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. 2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression. 3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. 4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hand for the gift of the Holy Ghost. 5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. 6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists, and so forth. 7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. 8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. 9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. 10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. 11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. 12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. 13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
The family unit is the basis of our lives here on earth. In today's world, there are many forces that seek to destroy family ties and erode the love and trust that should be present between members of any family. In 1995, the First Presidency of the church issued a proclamation to the world regarding the family. In part it reads: “We solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives- mothers and fathers- will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. The family is ordained of God. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
One last question which Muslims frequently ask Mormons is "Have you submitted?" (Hal asalamt?) We believe the answer to that question is a strong "yes". We are striving daily to do all that we can do to submit to God and to be obedient. As the Quran states: “Righteousness does not consist in whether you face towards the east or the west. The righteous man is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, in the angels and the Scriptures and the prophets; who for the love of Allah gives his wealth to his kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the needy, to the wayfarers and to the beggars, and for the redemption of the captives; who attends to his prayers and pays the alms-tax; who is true to his promises and steadfast in trial and adversity in times of war. Such are the true believers; such are the God-fearing.” (Sura 2:177) It is our sincere conviction that we are on the right path that God has prescribed for all of us. We appreciate and respect the righteous teachings of Islam that follow along the same path and we hope that we can enjoy the fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Islam as we meet along the way.