Mormonism grows; devotion begins in youth

By Colette M. Jenkins

Akron Beacon Journal

Published: Sunday, May 13 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

>Mormon history in Ohio

Ohio has a significant place in thechurch's history because Kirtland is where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was headquartered from 1831 to 1838. It is the place where Joseph revered by Mormons as a prophet, is believed to have received revelations from the Lord and much of the doctrine of the church that is still in place today. The city also is home of the first temple the early church members built.

The church claims 12,500 members in 34 congregations in Northeast Ohio's Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown stakes.

>Beliefs

"We believe in Jesus Christ, and we believe in the Bible as the word of God," said Elder Craig C. Christensen, of the Seventy who recently presided at a semiannual Akron Ohio Stake conference in Tallmadge. "We also believe that prophetic words come in our time. We invite people to get to know us — we welcome visitors — and they will find that we are traditional, conservative Christians, faith-filled people trying to live out our faith."

According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, Mormonism is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, claiming 14.4 million members. Mormons make up nearly 2 percent of the population (about 6 million people) in the United States.

A Pew survey released in January looked at the views, attitudes and religious practices of Mormons. It shows that while many Mormons feel they are misunderstood, discriminated against and not accepted as part of mainstream society, they think the acceptance of Mormonism is on the rise.

The research also indicates that although Mormons are uncertain of their place in society, they are certain in their beliefs: 98 percent believe that Jesus rose from the dead; 94 percent believe the president of the denomination is a prophet; 91 percent believe the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets and translated by Joseph Smith; and 94 percent believe God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate physical beings.

In addition, the majority of Mormons surveyed showed strong religious commitment: 82 percent say religion is very important to them, compared to 55 percent of the general public; 83 percent pray at least once a day; and 77 percent attend religious services at least once a week.

Mormons were also strong in adhering to church teachings. The survey showed 79 percent report they tithe, or donate, 10 percent of their earnings to the church; 51 percent regularly spend time with family; 49 percent don't drink coffee or tea; 82 percent keep a three-month supply of food stored for emergencies; and 73 percent work to help the poor.

>Serving others

The denomination's Relief Society is charged with seeking out and helping the poor. The auxiliary, which includes all adult women in the church, operates under the motto "Charity Never Faileth" and boasts being one of the largest women's organizations in the world.

Lynn Watkins, president of the Akron Ohio Stake Relief Society, said the ministry includes a "visiting teaching" component in which auxiliary members visit each woman in a congregation on a monthly basis to see how she is doing and if she needs anything. The local stake Relief Society has nearly 1,500 members.

"It's a really nice way to strengthen the ward because each of us is looking out for each other. We usually take a spiritual message with us when we visit a sister's home," said Watkins, of Hartville. "We attend to the spiritual and temporal needs of each sister and her family. We also do service projects in the larger community and help with disaster relief."

Watkins said one church resource that helps the auxiliary fulfill its mission to assist the needy is the Bishop's Storehouse, which can be likened to a supermarket without the cash registers. The central storehouse is located in Utah; a local storehouse is in Brecksville.

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