We all want to be good member missionaries, and usually we can answer questions about our religion without too much difficulty. But occasionally a particularly difficult question comes up. Thankfully, the Church is providing valuable resources and very recently released new topic pages to help with these challenging questions at the "Gospel Topics" section of LDS.org.
According to a recent article in LDS Church News these topic pages (along with the many other topic pages that have been published) are also meant to improve personal and family gospel study. Here's a little bit of what each page says:
Are Mormons Christian?
Contains three main subheadings (aside from a conclusion), all of which address the three traditional arguments against Mormons being Christian: (1) Latter-day Saints Do Not Accept the Creeds of Post–New Testament Christianity, (2) Latter-day Saints Believe in a Restored Christianity, and (3) Latter-day Saints Believe in an Open Canon. Here's an excerpt from the entry:
Converts across the world continue to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part because of its doctrinal and spiritual distinctiveness. . . . The Christian conversation is richer for what the Latter-day Saints bring to the table. There is no good reason for Christian faiths to ostracize each other when there has never been more urgent need for unity in proclaiming the divinity and teachings of Jesus Christ.
First Vision Accounts
Addresses the existence of multiple accounts of the First Vision, along with links to read each of the accounts and descriptions of similarities and differences in them. Contains two main subheadings (aside from a conclusion): (1) Accounts of the First Vision (with a list of the accounts) and (2) Arguments Regarding the Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Here is an excerpt from the entry:
Joseph Smith published two accounts of the First Vision during his lifetime. The first of these, known today as Joseph Smith—History, was canonized in the Pearl of Great Price and thus became the best known account. The two unpublished accounts, recorded in Joseph Smith’s earliest autobiography and a later journal, were generally forgotten until historians working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rediscovered and published them in the 1960s. Since that time, these documents have been discussed repeatedly in Church magazines, in works printed by Church-owned and Church-affiliated presses, and by Latter-day Saint scholars in other venues. In addition to the firsthand accounts, there are also five descriptions of Joseph Smith’s vision recorded by his contemporaries.
The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail. Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details.
Race and the Priesthood
Contains three subheadings: (1) The Church in an American Racial Culture, (2) Removing the Restriction, and (3) The Church Today. Discusses Church history and American cultural history at length. This is the longest entry of the three new topics discussed here and has a lengthy "resources" section. Here's an excerpt from the entry:
In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. . . .
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form. . . .
The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
Polygamy (Plural Marriage)
This page was published about a year ago, but since the topic of polygamy can also pose a challenging question for members, we include reference to it here. The page contains one subheading in the article itself ("Additional Information"). Here's an excerpt from the entry:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. At certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890. Since that time, plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.
To read more about these and other gospel topics from an official LDS Church perspective, visit lds.org/topics.