MORMON CHURCH: Church of the Latter-Day Saints: founded by Joseph Smith of Palmyra, New York in 1830. In 2012, there were an estimated 14.8 million Mormons, with roughly 57% living in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million Mormons – roughly 30% of the total membership – regularly attend services. In a vision in 1822, the angel Moroni told Smith the location where there were golden tablets containing God’s revelation and in 1830 Smith published a translation of them, the Book of Mormon. Smith declared the coming of Christ’s kingdom in America and encouraged others to abandon regular churches and false practices such as infant baptism and professional clergy. This created a lot of opposition and caused the church to move around various states of the US finishing up in Utah under a new leader Brigham Young in 1850. Mormons sought to establish a new ‘Zion’ in Utah and abandoned many conventional laws of the state including monogamy with many Mormons practicing polygamy even up to today. Mormons assert the primacy of the US in the divine scheme and their perfectionism encouraged them to be very successful business people owning many corporations. While Mormons are concentrated in Utah, international missions have been very successful and the church is now represented in 65 countries.

Beliefs: similar to regular Christianity in most beliefs, except Smith believed God is a self-made, finite entity with an eternal material body. Through repentance and baptism, anyone may gain entrance into Christ’s kingdom. Mormonism is male-oriented with polygamy available to some believers and family-life central to Mormon piety and organization. Male members share nonprofessional priesthood duties and they are expected to defer to higher church authority. Over all are the president – Smith’s successor who still may receive revelations, two counselors, and the Council of Twelve Apostles. The huge temple in Salt Lake City is the main ritual center containing the genealogical church records important to Mormons because of their practice of baptism of the dead. The growth of Mormonism throughout the world comes from a volunteer male missionary force who are expected to do two years of missionary work in their life. Mormon worship is non-liturgical and Temple rites bear some resemblance to Masonic rituals.

SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISM (SDA): founded on the teaching of William Miller (1782-1849) who believed the world would end in March 1843. After this didn’t happen (‘The Great Disappointment’) several Adventist believers eventually joined together to form the Seventh Day Adventist church. Hiram Edson, Joseph Bates, and Ellen White (1827-1915), were the central figures of this new Christian movement. SDA’s believe that in 1844 Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to judge the sins of those living and dead (the ‘Investigative Judgement’), the dead are really dead, i.e. ‘asleep’ in their graves, until the ‘Resurrection morning’, the observance of the Seventh Day (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) as the Sabbath, and the belief that Ellen White is a true prophet, whose words and visions are to be revered; all these beliefs form the basis of the church. In 1860 SDA became the official name of the church and in 1903 the HQ were located in Washington. 

Beliefs: summarized in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs adopted by the SDA church in 1980. Literal understanding of the Bible and the books of Ellen White. Evangelical and conservative with a major interest in the love of God for mankind, salvation through Christ available to all, judgement and the end of the world. SDA’s believe that these are the last days, and a judgment will soon take place, with annihilation for the ‘wicked’ and eternal life for the saved. After a thousand-year reign of the saints with Christ in heaven, the wicked will be raised and then along with Satan will be annihilated. Out of the chaos of the old Earth, God will create a new Earth which the redeemed will inhabit as their everlasting home. A close and ongoing study of the Bible has led to strict moral requirements for membership; including abstention from alcohol and tobacco; strict health laws: NEW START = Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in God; discouragement of self-adornment; and an anti-gay stance. Maintenance of Saturday as the Sabbath day is the great test of loyalty. The church practices believers’ baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper preceded by the ordinance of foot-washing. Over 25 million people worship weekly in Seventh-Day Adventist churches worldwide. The church operates in 202 countries and has an active mission program in third-world countries. The church operates over 7,500 schools including over 100 post-secondary institutions, numerous hospitals, and publishing houses worldwide, as well as a humanitarian aid organization known as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: is a US-based millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of approximately 8.68 million adherents They believe that the destruction of the present world system is imminent, and that the establishment of God’s Kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humanity; refusal to salute the flag, celebrate Christmas, or accept blood transfusions. Publishers of the well-known magazines, The Watchtower, and, Awake, distributed by their active missionaries. Founded by American Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) a prolific writer and authoritarian leader. Succeeded by Joseph Rutherford (1869-1942) who moved to centralize the movement. During WW II Witnesses had a difficult time due to their refusal to serve in the military. Their third President Nathan Knorr supervised steady growth of the movement which continues today.

Beliefs: absolute belief in God as the ruler of the Universe who demands unconditional obedience. Literal interpretation of the Bible. Jesus was not God but his son and second place only to his father Jehovah. Lucifer was Jehovah’s younger son who destroyed mankind’s original paradise necessitating the intervention of Christ. The fulfillment of God’s kingdom will occur dramatically with the battle of Armageddon, the appearance of Jesus, the millennial rule of Jesus on earth, and the glorious ‘Ages to Come’. The process began in 1914 with the ‘establishment of the kingdom’ and is ongoing. Only God is immortal but he can restore to life those whom he wishes – the righteous to live in the new earthly paradise. In addition, a special remnant of 144,000 is even now being raised to a greater privilege of eternal life in heaven. Worship takes place in ‘Kingdom Halls’ is instructional, sober and didactic in character. Baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal held only on the eve of Passover. They reject Trinitarianism, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire, which they consider to be unscriptural doctrines. They do not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays, or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity. They prefer to use their own Bible translation, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Adherents commonly refer to their body of beliefs as “The Truth” and consider themselves to be “in the Truth”. They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses. Congregational disciplinary actions include disfellowshipping, their term for formal expulsion and shunning, a last resort for what they consider serious offenses. Baptized individuals who formally leave are considered disassociated and are also shunned. Disfellowshipped and disassociated individuals may eventually be reinstated if deemed repentant. Ruling HQ in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Societies of New York and Pennsylvania or the International Bible Students Association of England. Members are expected to give complete loyalty to the movement and to take no part in politics.

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