Monday, April 6, 2009

We Believe in Christ

The first thing to know about the Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith is that we believe in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to say that?

Jesus Is the Christ

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus was the literal physical son of God the Father, making Jesus--in the traditional language of Christianity--"the only begotten of the Father." Thus, Jesus was not just a wonderful human being: Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and lives today. Jesus will return to the Earth at some time in the future, in a very obvious manner: the Second Coming.

Beyond this, we believe that Jesus is "the Christ." The Greek word Christ means "Anointed One"; the word occurs in the Greek New Testament as an equivalent of the Hebrew word mashiach, that is, "Messiah." We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, chosen by God the Father with a very special mission. That mission is encompassed in the word, "Atonement."

The Atonement of Christ

The Atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of the LDS faith. In its essence, the Atonement is simple to state, but its implications are immense.

We are, each of us, a literal spiritual child of God. Our human destiny is to inherit the kind of life that God has, which Latter-day Saints call eternal life. ('Eternal life' thus involves a great deal more than just immortality, or living forever.) However, as human beings, we have all sinned. (This covers a great deal of territory, involving the breaking of any of the commandments of God, including: failure to love God; failure to love others; lack of honesty; much, much else.) The effect of sin is to separate us from God, and make it impossible for us to achieve our destiny, eternal life.

Through the Atonement, Jesus took upon himself the penalty of our sins, and made it possible for us to return to God the Father and achieve our destiny. This aspect of the Atonement is voluntary: if we want to have the Atonement effective in our individual lives, we must show this through obedience to God.

This is the heart of the LDS faith. I have mentioned several terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader: 'Atonement,' 'eternal life,' and so forth. I plan, in future posts, to go over each of these, and much else besides. However, the important things to understand about LDS beliefs, at this juncture, are the following points:
  • The Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is the Christ, or divinely chosen Messiah of the human race, and that Jesus lives today.

  • Through the Atonement of Christ, people are able to have their sins truly forgiven, and achieve their destiny: eternal life, the kind of life that God has.
Where Latter-day Saints Differ

The Saints differ from much of the accepted wisdom of the world at large regarding Jesus:
  • In the world at large, many believe that Jesus never really existed, but was just an invention of some people in the first century AD. The Saints regard Jesus as a real, historical person--who not only lived, but lives.

  • Of those people who do believe that Jesus lived, many believe that Jesus was a great teacher, and a great human being, but not divine. In contrast, the Saints believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, divine, a member of the Godhead (along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit).
Although the two points above are held by the Saints in common with many other Christians, there are ways in which the Saints' beliefs are quite distinct. Possibly the most important of these is the following:
  • The Saints believe that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit are actually three separate individuals--united in purpose, to be sure, but nonetheless three separate beings.
I plan to address the nature of the Godhead in LDS belief in a future post. For now, the most important thing to know is that the Saints consider Jesus Christ and his Atonement to be at the very center of their faith.

A Personal Note

I do not hold these beliefs because someone else taught them to me. I believe this because I have prayed to know whether or not these principles are true, and in my prayers I felt the influence of the Holy Spirit testifying to me that this is indeed the truth. I realize that this proves these beliefs to no one but myself; however, I would invite you to pray yourself to find out about the truth of these things.

Any questions or comments?

More About This Topic

The website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a page specifically about LDS basic beliefs regarding Jesus as the Savior.


My thanks to Florance S. Jacobsen for posting the photo of the Christus statue, above, on her "LightPlanet" page.

Welcome to "LDS 101: The Latter-Day Saint / 'Mormon' Faith"

Welcome to "LDS 101: The Latter-Day Saint / 'Mormon' Faith." In this post, I describe for whom this blog is intended, its purpose, the topics I plan to address, how this blog is different from other blogs about the faith of the Latter-day Saints, how I am qualified to write about this, and aspects of my personal background. I plan to post new material to this blog once or twice weekly, although I'll try to read and respond to readers' comments daily. I plan for each post (except this one) to run no more than 800 words (not including references and so forth); thus, posts on this blog are just a big longer than an Op-Ed piece in a typical newspaper.

The Intended Audience and Purpose of This Blog

I write this blog for the person who is interested in learning something about the Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith, or what is popularly called "Mormonism." My purpose in writing this blog is not to convert anyone. However, there is much falsehood, innuendo, and misleading material published about the beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter "LDS Church"). My purpose is to tell the truth about LDS beliefs and practices, from the position that better and more widespread understanding about different religions is a good thing overall, in a multicultural world. At the same time, of course there will be some people who are considering becoming a Latter-day Saint, and I wish to help them obtain accurate information about the LDS faith.

Topics I Plan to Address

I plan to describe the basic beliefs, practices, values, philosophy, and history of the LDS faith. From time to time, I may comment on news reports regarding the LDS faith or prominent Latter-day Saints. In addition, I may respond to accusations that are occasionally made against the LDS Church.

How This Blog is Different

While I certainly cannot claim uniqueness for this blog, there are some characteristics of this blog that may stand out for the reader:
  • Having come from a different religious background myself, and having learned something about comparative religions over the course of my life, I can write about the LDS faith with some sense of where it connects with, and diverges from, other traditions. I shall not make derogatory comparisons with other faiths, but I hope to be clear about where the LDS have common ground with other faiths, and where the LDS are distinctly different.
  • This is not a bulletin board of articles. I am interested in a conversation with readers. Please feel free to comment on the posts, ask questions, raise issues.
  • I shall address the controversies that come up regarding the Latter-day Saints most directly.

How I Am Qualified to Write About This

First and foremost, of course, I am an observant Latter-day Saint. Since I became a Latter-day Saint in 1975 (as a college sophomore), I have spent somewhere over ten years, here and there, teaching adult Sunday School classes based on the LDS scriptures; I also served as a full-time LDS missionary for two years, teaching LDS beliefs in Japan. In addition, I have served in other positions in my LDS congregations over the years, including some in local church administration. Thus, I am reasonably familiar with LDS doctrine and practice.

Personal Background

I understand that readers may be curious about what sorts of perspectives inform my opinions. Here are some items about my background:
  • Name: Mark Edward Koltko-Rivera
  • Demographic characteristics: 52 years old; married, with four grown children from a former marriage.
  • LDS background: Convert. Returned full-time missionary; served honorably in the Japan Okayama Mission (1978-1980). Have served as a counselor to the bishop in two LDS congregations (a position similar to that of the associate pastor in another Christian church). Have also served on an LDS stake high council (a position similar to that of the panel of advisors to a bishop or archbishop in another Christian church). I currently serve as a 'ward missionary' in my congregation, which means that I help to teach LDS beliefs to people who have expressed an interest.
  • Home town: The Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. (Currently I reside on the Upper East Side.)
  • Where I've lived: New York City (Manhattan; Astoria, Queens; Brook Avenue in the Bronx). Florida (Winter Park, just north of Orlando). New Jersey (Newark). Pennsylvania (Haverford and Bryn Mawr). Connecticut (New Milford and West Hartford). Japan (Hiroshima, Okayama, Matsue, Matsuyama, Tokushima).
  • Ethnicity: Polish and Puerto Rican.

Although directed at people who are not Latter-day Saints, anyone is welcome to read and comment upon these posts, as long as the rules are followed: No personal attacks. No profanity at all. No posting of anti-LDS / anti-Mormon websites or URLs, or attacks on the LDS Church.



This website and its content have no official connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I, Mark Koltko-Rivera, am the only person responsible for content on this site; any mistakes are mine and mine alone. The LDS Church does not sponsor the site, and neither suggests nor edits content, either officially or otherwise.

The photo of a Mormon family, above, was obtained from the website, "Why Mormonism?," to which I offer my thanks.