However, I grew up fully aware, and embarrassed, of how different my religion was. After all, the basic premise of the Mormon church is that it is THE one true church and that all other churches, although they may have remnants or parts of the truth,
were false. Not only are they false, the Book of Mormon very clearly states that they are the whore of the earth and the church of the devil. Some think that this refers to the Catholic church, but the Book of Mormon clearly teaches that there are only two churches: the church of the Lamb and the church of the devil. If you aren't the true church, then you are part of the other one. Needless to say this didn't go over well with other religions and still doesn't. So the church doesn't exactly go around using this is as a talking point in its missionary discussions.
Anyway, a big part of my mission was overcoming my embarrassment about the church and learning to be proud and bold about talking about the church. After all, if it is true then there is no reason to be afraid. Blacks and the priesthood? No problem. The priesthood is God's power delegated to man. He get's to choose who to delegate it to. He has chosen prophets and told them who can and can't have it. He doesn't give it to non-church members. He doesn't give it to women. And until 1978 he didn't give it to blacks. God has spoken and who am I to argue. I don't know the reason, but he must know what he is doing. After all he IS God.
Do you get the point? The point of the Mormon church, first and foremost, is that it is led by a prophet of God who tells us God's will. It's not a debating society. It's not a democracy. It's the divine source of all truth and knowledge. So, if God's word runs against current social mores then it's an indication that society has strayed. It's not for the church to conform; the world needs to pray, humble itself, and conform to God's word.
In an election year, the church has suddenly been thrust to center stage by the candidacy of Mitt Romney. They have been given an unprecedented opportunity to boldly declare their beliefs and how they differ from the other religions of the world. They have an opportunity to proudly declare their beliefs. Fox News gave them a list of questions that focused on some of the church's controversial beliefs. Check out their answers. Most of them are simple lies. For the record I'll answer the questions for them since they seem incapable.
Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?
A: Because it meets almost all of the attributes of destructive personality cults such as the Church of Scientology. Because it exerts tremendous social pressure to exert control over all aspects of its members.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
Q: Does the Church believe in the divinity of Jesus?
Q: Does the Church believe that God is a physical being?
A: Yes. It believes that God the Father and Jesus Christ are beings of flesh and bone and that they are perfected humans.
Q: If so, does the Church believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob?
Update: I was wrong. Kolob is a star. All the scripture says is that it is close to God, whatever that means. In fact, read about it yourself in Abraham 3. If it makes any sense to you then you're doing better than me. Still, as far as I know this doesn't have any theological significance whatsoever to Mormons now or ever other than they claim that Abraham had a great deal of advanced astronomy revealed directly to him by God. However, as far as I know, no astronomers, not even at the Lord's university (BYU), have found that the Book of Abraham has been of any particular use in shedding light on the nature of the cosmos.
Q: Where is the planet Kolob? What significance does the planet have to Mormons?
A: They don't know, but the Book of Mormon, part of the Mormon canon, tells about it and its cosmic relationship to this world and the other worlds in this universe. It doesn't really have any theological role in the church.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?
A: It's not part of the church canon, but one of the church's prophets taught publicly that Jesus' physical body was conceived the same way as any other naturally conceived human body. The same prophet also taught that God and Mary were plurally married. Most members are unaware of the teaching, but the church DOES teach that Jesus is the literal physical son of God the Father. In the end, does it really matter if it was copulation, artificial insemination, or immaculate conception? God fathered a son with an unmarried woman. All Christians believe that. Non-mormons just seem to object to the idea that the Virgin Mary had sex with God.
Update: Here is a pretty good link summarizing the church's past teachings on the matter.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?
Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?
A: Right after his ascension in Jerusalem. After three days of complete darkness Jesus descended in a pillar of light from heaven in America were he ministered to the people, ordained apostles, preached, instituted ordinances, and organized his church.
Honestly, this is the most perplexing answer that the church gave. This is one of their BIG selling points.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become "gods and goddesses" after death?
A: Yes. They believe that God is a perfected man and that all people are his children with the divine nature to rise to become gods and goddesses. This is what the church calls exaltation and it is one of the key doctrines of the church.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women can only gain access to heaven with a special pass or codewords?
A: Their answer is a blatant lie. The answer is yes. The answer is also yes for men. Read Brigham Young's definition of the temple endowment. People must have the keywords, tokens, and handshakes in order to pass by the angels and enter into the highest degree of glory.
Update: Ok, first you have to define what you mean by heaven. Mormons scripture defines 3 heavens: telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. The celestial kingdom in turn has three degrees the highest of which is reserved for faithful Mormons who have been married in the temple. Mormon theology claims universal salvation for all except sons of perdition who openly, knowingly rebel against God. So, everyone, including murderers and child molesters will go to heaven although it might be the lowest. Still Joseph Smith claimed that if we knew how wonderful the lowest heaven was we'd commit suicide to get in.
Still, most Mormons aspire to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom when thinking of heaven and generally when they talk about heaven that is what they mean. Men and women need to be endowed and married in the temple and know the appropriate handshakes and passwords to get in.
Furthermore, men get to know one of the secret passwords of their wives (their new name) but the women don't know the husband's. I learned that men would use this key word to call forth their wives in the resurrection. Sort of as if the resurrection is a temple ordinance over which the men preside. I guess this is another reason why Mormon women should be hesistant about disobeying their worthy priesthood holding husbands.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women must serve men on both Earth and in heaven?
A: Until 1990 women had to covenant in the temple to obey their husbands in righteousness just as they would obey God. They are NOT equal in any way in the church. They are expected to be subservient and accountable to the male priesthood hierarchy. No matter how much the church states otherwise, the church makes clear differences between men and women with women always below men.
Q: Is there such a thing as Mormon "underwear"? if so, are all Mormons required to wear it? What does it symbolize?
A: Their answer here is tactful, but correct. They are called the garments of the holy priesthood and only members who have received their temple endowments wear them. They wear them as a constant reminder of their temple covenants and as a spiritual and physical protection.
A pertinent part of this is an enumeration of the covenants that are made. Romney, if he is active Mormon, wears garments and some of his covenants could be construed to conflict with the oath of the President of the U.S.A. People should be interested in knowing exactly what SECRET oaths and covenants Romney has taken in the temple if he is to serve in high office. If he is wearing garments it is an indication that he takes those oaths seriously.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will "rule" after their death and ascension?
A: This is a clear lie. The canon teaches that exaltation is inheriting "worlds without end". All active, studious members know that this is a lie.
Q: What specifically does the Mormon Church say about African-Americans and Native Americans?
A: This is a clear lie. The Mormon church to this day teaches that the dark skins of blacks and Indians are the result of a curse for wickedness and were given as a sign to prevent the righteous from intermixing with them. Until 1978 a Mormon with even one black ancestor anywhere in their past was denied the priesthood and the blessings of the priesthood and as a result was denied exaltation or the highest level of heaven. This doctrine has NEVER been changed. It was only modified to say that the Lord has decided that the time has come where, finally, everyone could have all the blessings regardless of color. This has only been true since 1978. But even today, dark skin is a mark of unrighteousness.
Updated: OK, a clear lie of ommission. Their answer is true as far as it goes since 1978. But is incomplete and as such is a lie because it is simply non-responsive. For rather obvious reasons they don't want to give a complete answer.
Q: What are or were the "Golden Plates"?
A: The dissimulation here is that The Book of Mormon is a history of "peoples" in the Western Hemisphere. This is a modification of the original teaching that it was the history of all the people of the Western Hemisphere.
Again, the Book of Mormon is the whole reason the church was founded and is one its key doctrinal differences.
Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?
A: The Word of Wisdom was originally a recommendation that wasn't made a commandment until the 1920s. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others were known to violate the Word of Wisdom.
Q: Does the Church also ban the consumption of "hot drinks"? And does that apply specifically to caffeinated drinks?
A: The current prophet has publicly stated that it applies to caffeinated sodas such as Pepsi and Coke.
Q: Why do Mormons go from door to door?
A: No problem here. All Christians should do the same. It's in the Bible.
Q: What do the Mormons believe about the family?
A: They forgot to state that families can be forever if the parents are married in the temple and sealed to their children. I'm surprised that they forgot this. It's only beaten into the head of every Mormon from the time they can first sing a song in Primary.
Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?
A: Truthful in as far as it goes. The actual doctrine is that single women will be given as plural wives to righteous polygamists in the celestial kingdom in the afterlife. Otherwise they cannot be exalted.
Updated: Thanks for the comments from Mattman. But the answers are positively Clintonian in their parsing of words and careful phrasing and reliance on ambiguity and misunderstanding of how Mormons have redefined the common meaning of words such as "heaven" without revealing how they are interpreting the word in a way that they know the questioner didn't intend or doesn't understand. It's obvious that these questions are intentionally probing into weird areas of Mormon theology. But that some such as the question about the golden plates are core and even there they couldn't give a good answer.
The problem is that the church really IS weird. It is trying to mainstream, but to do so would require stripping it of everything that makes it unique and appealing to its believers.