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Resources - Religions

Religion is the belief and worship of a God(s) that is practiced in ~350k congregations across the United States (according to the 2010 US Religious Census. It entails a collection of cultural systems, beliefs and world views that relate humanity to spirituality, and to moral values. Religion always begins as an experience that some individual has, or that some group of people share. In many places religion has been associated with public institutions such as education, hospitals, the family, government and political hierarchies.

As Max Weber defined the concept over a century ago, religion provides people with a way of transforming an existence of apparent chaos into one of having ultimate meaning. Religion renders existence meaningful by reinforcing the assumption that reality makes sense intellectually and intuitively.

Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.
Max Brooks, New York Times

The four major religions of the world are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Judaism is not necessarily a major religion by number of believers , but it is recognized as having an influential role in most religions (see Religions Macro View graphic below). Looking at Christianity, which takes the existence and/or teachings of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, there are reported to be 38,000 Christian denominations and the major groups are: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Among the Protestants are Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Episcopal, Latter Day Saints (Mormon), Methodist, Pentecostal and Presbyterian, to name a few. Judaism can be classified as Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism with the majority of all Jews living in Israel, America and Canada. Jewish holidays are determined by the lunar calendar in much the same fashion as the Muslim calendar with the exception being leap months allowance.

All religions, surprisingly, have more in common at their very basic foundation of human kindness. Most people however, only know another religion by "soundbites" from the uninformed. It takes just a little courage to step across the threshold into the open doors of another faith to understand what is happening from the inside, but for those secure in their own faith it is not hard to do.

Can historically violent faiths come together and set an example for the world to see outside of the mosque, or synagogue?

Below you will find beliefs of major religions in just one place:

Atheist
Catholic
Hindu
Islam. Fastest growing religion in the world.
Mormon
The 'Nones'. Second fastest growing "community" in the world, 2nd largest faith-related demographic in the U.S
Others

The Golden Rule

Do unto others
as you would have them do unto you.

In 1985, Nancy Reagan (former First Lady of the 40th US President) bestowed a wall size mosaic of this Norman Rockwell painting to the United Nations to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary. Do we profess this tenet but are selective with whom we apply it, in thought or practice?

Although most of us are cognizant of the major faiths, our upbringing and our environment have colored the views we hold. Casual observances reinforce our interpretation and, all too often, we allow laymen and others to interpret the significance, correctness, applicability, viability and "truthfulness" of others beliefs.

The elucidation offered by others usually carries an undertone of "let me tell you why I am right" and "you are better with me on this side of the divine wall" type of subliminal message. Our propensity to feel informed is thus acquiesced and seldom, if ever, do we venture forth into the domains of other faiths. It is easier to go on believing what we have always believed maintaining separatist views.

I can tell you that my own personal views were challenged as I crossed the thresholds of a different denomination but once there, when you take in all of the senses, there is surprisingly a great deal of philosophical grounding that is similar. Differences in religion are usually intangible tenets that have gained strength in fidelity across the ages with the multitudes, and in the absence of any science. Arguments over ethereal concepts such as the Holy Ghost, a Telestial Heaven, the Trinity and the possibility of a resurrection take center stage overshadowing the tangible beliefs that weave our society together such as kindness, respect and responsibility.

Recognizing that time, insecurities and inclinations to explore a faith from the other side provide ample defense, I have included a mini-expansive view of four main religions, Catholic, Hindu, Islam and Mormon below that briefly touch on some of the basic concepts of other's beliefs. The all-too-familiar ten commandments and the practices of these four religions have qualities that on the surface may appeal to our common sense, and in some respects even be considered admirable. Case in point is the modesty of dress promulgated by the Islamic faith, or the no drinking policy of the Mormons and Muslims. In traditional Western society, these two concepts either help define our society or they are perceived to impart a scourge upon our neighborhoods with drunkards, or pornography.

I chose the religions given below purposely as they build on each other over time. Christian faiths are varied, having splintered a long time ago creating many factions for the human race. As the story goes in an overly simplistic fashion, post Jesus Christ's physical existence on earth, "God saw that the world needed another prophet so he sent the angel Gabriel to reveal the word of God to Mohammed," marking the birth of Islam. Civilization flourished in Eurasia and the African continent under these teachings. In time however, the Americas became inhabited with rogue, disparate uncivilized people and "God saw that intervention was again needed in 1820 on the American continent so he sent the angel Moroni" to reveal his plan to Joseph Smith spawning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.The Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Mormon faiths use the Bible as a foundational element in ALL of their teachings; in Islam the Qur'an (Koran) book followed and in Mormonism the 'Book of Mormon' annotating the teachings in their respective emerging periods.

Before we begin though, the following pictorial illustrates religions heritage and how they have influenced one another over the centuries.

The all-too-familiar ten commandments and the practices of these four religions have qualities that on the surface may appeal to our common sense, and in some respects even be considered admirable. Case in point is the modesty of dress promulgated by the Islamic faith, or the no drinking policy of the Mormons and Muslims. In traditional Western society, these two concepts either help define our society or they impart a scourge upon our neighborhoods with drunkenness or illicit pornography.

Each of the religions shown below build on each other over time. Christian faiths are varied, having splintered a long time ago creating many factions for the human race. As the story goes, post Jesus Christ's physical existence on earth, "God saw that the world needed another prophet so he sent the angel Gabriel to reveal the word of God to Mohammed," marking the birth of Islam. Civilization flourished in Eurasia and the African continent under these teachings. In time however, the Americas became inhabited with rogue, disparate uncivilized people and "God saw that intervention was again needed in 1820 on the American continent so he sent the angel Moroni" to reveal his plan to Joseph Smith spawning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Each of these religions use the Bible as a foundation element in ALL of their teachings.

Religions are complex organizations with concepts, people and corporate structures that parallel large scale commercial enterprises, or governments, and yet simultaneously they are infused in every fabric of these very same institutions. I encourage the reader to talk to people of different faiths and if so inclined... to venture forth into their temples, synagogues, mosques, cathedrals or churches.

Just as each religion has its own name, giving it distinction among the many, each faith has a name for their individual practices or deities. Just because it differs from your own concept, or it may be difficult to pronounce, it does not mean that the meaning has been lost. In Christianity we readily accept the diversity of names given to God, or Jesus Christ, in the Bible as illustrated in the following page yet the names given by other religions for a supreme being which no one has ever seen in person, only a virtual manifestation of his/her presence, is considered blasphemy to the almighty?!

In how many fashions can your own name be translated and how many nicknames or terms of endearment do you personally have? Different names in different venues do not take away from the person you are; the list below gives a sampling of 100+ names for God and Jesus in the Bible.


Advocate - 1 John 2:1 Almighty - Revelation 1:8
Alpha - Revelation 1:8
Amen - Revelation 3:14
Angel of the Lord - Genesis 16:7
Anointed One - Psalm 2:2
Apostle - Hebrews 3:1
Author and Perfecter of our Faith - Hebrews 12:2
Beginning - Revelation 21:6
Bishop of Souls - 1 Peter 2:25
Branch - Zechariah 3:8
Bread of Life - John 6:35,48
Bridegroom - Matthew 9:15
Carpenter - Mark 6:3
Chief Shepherd - 1 Peter 5:4
The Christ - Matthew 1:16
Comforter - Jeremiah 8:18
Consolation of Israel - Luke 2:25
Cornerstone - Ephesians 2:20
Dayspring - Luke 1:78
Day Star - 2 Peter 1:19
Deliverer - Romans 11:26
Desire of Nations - Haggai 2:7
Emmanuel - Matthew 1:23
End - Revelation 21:6
Everlasting Father - Isaiah 9:6
Faithful and True Witness - Revelation 3:14
First Fruits - 1 Corinthians 15:23
Foundation - Isaiah 28:16
Fountain - Zechariah 13:1
Friend of Sinners - Matthew 11:19
Gate for the Sheep - John 10:7
Gift of God - 2 Corinthians 9:15
God - John 1:1
Glory of God - Isaiah 60:1
Good Shepherd - John 10:11
Governor - Matthew 2:6
Great Shepherd - Hebrews 13:20
Guide - Psalm 48:14
Head of the Church - Colossians 1:18
High Priest - Hebrews 3:1
Holy One of Israel - Isaiah 41:14
Horn of Salvation - Luke 1:69
I Am - Exodus 3:14
Jehovah - Psalm 83:18
Jesus - Matthew 1:21
King of Israel - Matthew 27:42
King of Kings - 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16
Lamb of God - John 1:29
Last Adam - 1 Corinthians 15:45
Life - John 11:25
Lord of Lords - 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16
Light of the World - John 8:12; John 9:5
Lion of the Tribe of Judah - Revelation 5:5
Master - Matthew 23:8
Mediator - 1 Timothy 2:5
Messiah - John 1:41
Mighty God - Isaiah 9:6
Morning Star - Revelation 22:16
Nazarene - Matthew 2:23
Omega - Revelation 1:8
Passover Lamb - 1 Corinthians 5:7
Physician - Matthew 9:12
Potentate - 1 Timothy 6:15
Priest - Hebrews 4:15
Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6
Prophet - Acts 3:22
Propitiation - I John 2:2
Purifier - Malachi 3:3
Rabbi - John 1:49
Ransom - 1 Timothy 2:6
Redeemer - Isaiah 41:14
Refiner - Malachi 3:2
Refuge - Isaiah 25:4
Resurrection - John 11:25
Righteousness - Jeremiah 23:6
Rock - Deuteronomy 32:4
Root of David - Revelation 22:16
Rose of Sharon - Song of Solomon 2:1
Ruler of God's Creation - Revelation 3:14
Sacrifice - Ephesians 5:2
Savior - 2 Samuel 22:47; Luke 1:47
Second Adam - 1 Corinthians 15:47
Seed of Abraham - Galatians 3:16
Seed of David - 2 Timothy 2:8
Seed of the Woman - Genesis 3:15
Servant - Isaiah 42:1
Shepherd - 1 Peter 2:25
Shiloh - Genesis 49:10
Son of David - Matthew 15:22
Son of God - Luke 1:35
Son of Man - Matthew 18:11
Son of Mary - Mark 6:3
Son of the Most High - Luke 1:32
Stone - Isaiah 28:16
Sun of Righteousness - Malachi 4:2
Teacher - Matthew 26:18
Truth - John 14:6
Way - John 14:6
Wonderful Counselor - Isaiah 9:6
Word - John 1:1
Vine - Joh
Source

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God."
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Governor of Virginia, U.S. minister to France, Secretary of State under George Washington and 3rd US President

Atheist Beliefs

The group that has come to be known as the "nones" among millennials (over 30 percent) may consider themselves atheists, agnostics, or humanists.

This group welcomes remarks such as the following:

It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional. Notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money - for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history do not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name.
Source: Unknown
In 2014, 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states yielded the following Athiest's 10 commandments:
  1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
  2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
  3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
  4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
  5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
  6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
  7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
  9. There is no one right way to live.
  10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
Six Types of Atheists

Catholic Beliefs

Source. See how similar Catholic prayers may be to your own faith here.

1. To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world. Man must know, love and serve God in a supernatural manner in order to gain happiness of heaven. Man is raised to the supernatural order only by grace, a free gift of God.

2. We learn to know, love, and serve God from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who teaches us through the Catholic Church.

3. In order to be saved, all persons who have attained the use of reason must believe explicitly that God exists and that he rewards the good and punishes the wicked; in practice they must also believe in the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation.

4. By the Blessed Trinity we mean one and the same God in three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

5. "By the Incarnation" means that the Son of God, retaining His divine nature, took to Himself a human nature, that is, a body and soul like ours.

6. The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.

7. We find the chief truths taught by Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church in the Apostles' Creed.

The Ten Commandments of God

1. I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's day
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet you neighbor's goods.

The Chief Commandments or Laws, of the Church

1. To assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation.
2. To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
3. To confess our sins at least once a year.
4. To receive Holy Communion during the Easter time.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church.
6. To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage.

The Seven Deadly Sins

We should not be satisfied merely to keep the commandments of God, but should always be ready to do good deeds, even when they are not commanded. The commandments of God state the minimum requirements for salvation. They should be kept not merely according to the letter, but also according to the spirit, which obliges us to strive for greater perfection.

Actual sin is any willful thought, desire, word, action or omission forbidden by the law of God.

1. PRIDE: Unrestrained appreciation of our own worth.
2. GREED: Immoderate desire for earthly goods.
3. LUST: Hankering for impure pleasures.
4. ANGER: Inordinate desire for revenge.
5. GLUTTONY: Unrestrained use of food and drink.
6. ENVY: Sorrow over another's good fortune.
7. SLOTH: Laxity in keeping the Faith and the practice of virtue, due to the effort involved.

THE FOUR SINS CRYING TO HEAVEN FOR VENGEANCE

1. Willful murder (including abortion)
2. The sin of Sodom.
3. Oppression of the poor.
4. Defrauding laborers of their wages.

THE SIX SINS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

1. Presumption of God's mercy.
2. Despair.
3. Impugning the known truth.
4. Envy at another's spiritual good.
5. Obstinacy in sin.
6. Final impenitence.

NINE WAYS OF BEING ACCESSORY TO ANOTHER'S SIN

1. By counsel.
2. By command.
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By partaking.
8. By silence.
9. By defense of the ill done

A Guide for Confession

The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God like the "prodigal son" and to acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before the priest.

Modern society has lost a sense of sin. As a Catholic follower of Christ, I must make an effort to recognize sin in my daily actions, words and omissions.

The Gospels show how important is the forgiveness of our sins. Lives of saints prove that the person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, sorrow for sins, and a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.

As a result of Original Sin, human nature is weakened. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, takes away Original Sin, and turns us back toward God. The consequences of this weakness and the inclination to evil persist, and we often commit personal or actual sin.

Actual sin is sin which people commit. There are two kinds of actual sin, mortal and venial.

Mortal sin is a deadly offense against God, so horrible that it destroys the life of grace in the soul. Three simultaneous conditions must be fulfilled for a mortal sin:

1) the act must be something very serious;
2) the person must have sufficient understanding of what is being done; 3) the person must have sufficient freedom of the will.

Before Confession

Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. The resolution to avoid committing these sins in the future (amendment) is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. This does not mean that a promise never to fall again into sin is necessary. A resolution to try to avoid the near occasions of sin suffices for true repentance. God's grace in cooperation with the intention to rectify your life will give you the strength to resist and overcome temptation in the future.

Examination of Conscience

Before going to Confession you should make a review of mortal and venial sins since your last sacramental confession, and should express sorrow for sins, hatred for sins and a firm resolution not to sin again.

A helpful pattern for examination of conscience is to review the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church:

1. Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life? Have I denied my faith? Have I placed my trust in false teachings or substitutes for God? Did I despair of God's mercy?

2. Have I avoided the profane use of God's name in my speech? Have I broken a solemn vow or promise?

3. Have I honored every Sunday by avoiding unnecessary work, celebrating the Mass (also holy days)? Was I inattentive at, or unnecessarily late for Mass, or did I leave early? Have I neglected prayer for a long time?

4. Have I shown Christ like respect to parents, spouse, and family members, legitimate authorities? Have I been attentive to the religious education and formation of my children?

5. Have I cared for the bodily health and safety of myself and all others? Did I abuse drugs or alcohol? Have I supported in any way abortion, "mercy killing," or suicide?

6. Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, lazy? Have I forgiven others?

7. Have I been just in my responsibilities to employer and employees? Have I discriminated against others because of race or other reasons?

8. Have I been chaste in thought and word? Have I used sex only within marriage and while open to procreating life? Have I given myself sexual gratification? Did I deliberately look at impure TV, pictures, reading?

9. Have I stolen anything from another, from my employer, from government? If so, am I ready to repay it? Did I fulfill my contracts? Did I rashly gamble, depriving my family of necessities?

10. Have I spoken ill of any other person? Have I always told the truth? Have I kept secrets and confidences?

11. Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone to whom I am not married?

12. Have I desired what belongs to other people? Have I wished ill on another?

13. Have I been faithful to sacramental living (Holy Communion and Penance)?

14. Have I helped make my parish community stronger and holier? Have I contributed to the support of the Church?

15. Have I done penance by abstaining and fasting on obligatory days? Have I fasted before receiving communion?

16. Have I been mindful of the poor? Do I accept God's will for me?

The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church

1. Baptism
2. Penance/Reconciliation
3. Eucharist
4. Confirmation
5. Matrimony
6. Holy Orders
7. Extremunction or Anointing of the Sick

The seven sacraments were instituted by Christ and given to the Church to administer. They are necessary for salvation. The sacraments are the vehicles of grace which they convey. They are validly administered by the carrying out of the sign with the proper intention. Not all are equally qualified to administer all the sacraments. The validity of the sacrament is independent of the worthiness of the minister. Three sacraments imprint an indelible character.

Hinduism Beliefs

Source. See how similar Hindu prayers may be to your own faith here.

Hinduism embraces a great diversity of beliefs, a fact that can be initially confusing to westerners accustomed to creeds, confessions, and carefully-worded belief statements. One can believe a wide variety of things about God, the universe and the path to liberation and still be considered a Hindu.

This attitude towards religious belief has made Hinduism one of the more open-minded religions when it comes to evaluating other faiths. Probably the most well-known Hindu saying about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by different names."

However, there are some beliefs common to nearly all forms of Hinduism that can be identified, and these basic beliefs are generally regarded as boundaries outside of which lies either heresy or non-Hindu religion. These fundamental Hindu beliefs include:

1. The authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts) and the Brahmans (priests);

2. The existence of an enduring soul that transmigrates from one body to another at death (reincarnation); and

3. The law of karma that determines one's destiny both in this life and the next.

Note that a specific belief about God or gods is not considered one of the essentials, which is a major difference between Hinduism and strictly monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism. Most Hindus are devoted followers of one of the principal gods Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti, and often others besides, yet all these are regarded as manifestations of a single Reality.

The ultimate goal of all Hindus is release (moksha) from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). For those of a devotional bent, this means being in God's presence, while those of a philosophical persuasion look forward to uniting with God as a drop of rain merges with the sea.

Hinduism is a decidedly theistic religion; the difficulty lies in determining whether it is a polytheistic, pantheistic, or perhaps even monotheistic religion. The Indian mind is much more inclined to regard divergent views as complementary rather than competing.

Hindu Gods

Supporting a view of Hinduism as a polytheistic religion is the great pantheon of Hindu gods. The oldest and most sacred texts, the Vedas, are chiefly concerned with mythologies and rituals related to a number of deities, most of which are identified with aspects of the natural world. The gods of modern Hinduism include the chief gods Shiva, Vishnu and the Mother Goddess Shakti as well as a myriad of local community gods.

Devotion to these various deities is based primarily on one's region and needs, and even when devotion is given to only one, the existence of others is acknowledged. Hindu worship virtually always involves sculptures and images, to which offerings are made and rituals are performed.

Despite these polytheistic elements, however, many Hindus explain that the gods are various forms of a single Supreme Being. Similarly, the philosophical Hindu texts advocate a pantheistic view of ultimate reality. These texts, most notably the Upanishads, explain that there exists a single Supreme Reality, called Brahman. Brahman is often personified and presented as the One that must be sought, and can begin to sound like monotheism. Yet the ultimate revelation of the Upanishads is that the self (atman) is identical with Brahman. Life is therefore best spent not in rituals and offerings to the gods, but in deep meditation on the self until this truth is experienced firsthand.

The Upanishads describe Brahman as "the eternal, conscious, irreducible, infinite, omnipresent, spiritual source of the universe of finiteness and change." Brahman is the source of all things and is in all things; it is the Self (atman) of all living beings.

Brahman is an impersonal Being in itself, but it can be known through the many gods and goddesses that are manifestations of Brahman.

The Sanskrit word karma means "actions" or "deeds." As a religious term, karma refers to intentional (usually moral) actions that affect one's fortunes in this life and the next. Karma (or kamma in Pali) is a concept common to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, but interpreted in different ways.

The concept of karma or "law of karma" is the broader principle that all of life is governed by a system of cause and effect, action and reaction, in which one's deeds have corresponding effects on the future. Karma is thus a way of explaining evil and misfortune in the world, even for those who do not appear to deserve it - their misfortune must be due to wrong actions in their previous life.

Karma is regarded as a fundamental law of nature that is automatic and mechanical. It is not something that is imposed by God or a god as a system of punishment or reward, nor something that the gods can interfere with.

The word karma refers primarily to "bad karma" - that which is accumulated as a result of wrong actions. Bad karma binds a person's soul (atman) to the cycle of rebirth (samsara) and leads to misfortune in this life and poor conditions in the next. The moral energy of a particular moral act bears fruit automatically in the next life, manifested in one's class, disposition, and character.

Hindu texts also prescribe a number of activities, such as pilgrimages to holy places and acts of devotion, that can wipe out the effects of bad karma. Such positive actions are sometimes referred to as "good karma." Some versions of the theory of karma also say that morally good acts have positive consequences (as opposed to simply neutral).

In Vedanta and Yoga teachings, there are three types of karma:

1. Prarabdha karma - karma experienced during the present lifetime

2. Sancita karma - the store of karma that has not yet reached fruition

3. Agamin or sanciyama karma - karma sown in the present life that will come to fruition in a future life

The process by which karma is understood to work through various rebirths is as follows:

  • Good or bad actions create impressions (samskaras) or tendencies (vasanas) in the mind, which in time will come to fruition in further action (more karma).
  • The seeds of karma are carried in the subtle body (linga), in which the soul transmigrates.
  • The physical body (sthula sarira) is the field in which the fruit of karma is experienced and more karma is created.

The purpose of life in Hinduism is thus to minimize bad karma in order to enjoy better fortune in this life and achieve a better rebirth in the next. The ultimate spiritual goal is to achieve release (moksha) from the cycle of samsara altogether. It may take hundreds or thousands of rebirths to get rid of all of one's accumulated karma and achieve moksha. The person who has become liberated (attained moksha) creates no more new karma during the present lifetime and is not reborn after death.

Various methods to attain moksha are taught by different schools, but most include avoiding attachment to impermanent things, carrying out one's duties, and realizing the ultimate unity between one's soul or self (atman) and ultimate reality (Brahman).

In Hinduism, there is not just one purpose of human life, but four:

1. Dharma - fulfilling one's purpose
2. Artha - prosperity
3. Kama - desire, sexuality, enjoyment
4. Moksha - enlightenment

Dharma

The Sanskrit word dharma means many things, including "law," "teaching" and "religion." In this context, it means one's destiny or purpose. In general, it refers to one's vocation or career, which is often defined by class and family. If a Hindu man's father is a tire maker, his dharma is probably to make tires, too. Traditionally, the dharma of most women has been to be a housewife and a mother.

Another aspect of dharma is paying the five debts. Hindus believe that they are born in debt to the gods and various humans, and they must repay those karmic debts during their lifetime. The debts are:

1. Debt to the gods for their blessings; paid by rituals and offerings.

2. Debt to parents and teachers; paid by supporting them, having children of one's own and passing along knowledge.

3. Debt to guests; repaid by treating them as if they were gods visiting one's home.

4. Debt to other human beings; repaid by treating them with respect.

5. Debt to all other living beings; repaid by offering good will, food or any other help that is appropriate.

Dharma also means righteousness, or living morally and ethically at all times.

Artha: Prosperity

Artha is prosperity or success in worldly pursuits. Although the ultimate goal of Hinduism is enlightenment, the pursuit of wealth and prosperity is regarded as an appropriate pursuit for the householder (the second of four life stages). It also ensures social order, for there would be no society if everyone renunciated worldly life to meditate. But while Hindus are encouraged to make money, it must be within the bounds of dharma.

Kama: Pleasure

Kama (Sanskrit, "desire") primarily refers to romantic love and sexual pleasure, though it can refer to desire in general. Like artha, kama is seen as an appropriate pursuit of the householder. The Kama Sutra, a manual for erotic and other human pleasures (like flower-arranging) and is attributed to the sage Vatsyayana.

Moksha: Enlightenment

The ultimate end of every Hindu's life is moksha, which can be understood in a variety of ways: liberation from rebirth, enlightenment, Self-realization, or union with God. This is considered to the be the highest purpose of life, although very few can achieve it in a single lifetime and there are a variety of paths to attain it.

Islam Beliefs

Source1, Source2 and Source3.
To learn how, when and why Muslims pray click here.
Islam Clothing Glossary

For Muslims, Islam is the religion of allegiance to God and his prophet Mohammed, who lived around 570-632 A.D. and came from a family of traders at Mecca. The religion's book of revelation, mediated by the prophet, is the Qur'an. The word Islam derives from the same Semitic root as the Hebrew word Shalom, which means peace. Islam means "entering into a condition of peace and security with God, through allegiance or surrender to him."

Mohammed is said to have received his revelations over a period of 23 years from the Angel Jibreel, or Gabriel, who was relaying the word of God.

In Muslim eyes, Mohammed completes a succession of prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus, each of whom refined and restated the message of God. The Qur’an therefore corroborates, updates and expands the Old and New Testaments.

Main tenets Central to Islam is the absolute sense that there can only be one God - Allah - and that he is the source of all creation and disposer of all lives and events. Hence, there is no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger.

All people should become a single Ummah - community - witnessing to that fact. On the day of judgment, all will rise from the dead and be sent to heaven or hell.

The Qur'an contains many moral exhortations, forming the basis of Islamic (sharia) law. It lays down generosity and fairness and the requirements for daily prayer, alms giving, abstinence during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan and pilgrimage to Mecca.

The five pillars of the Islamic faith - the fundamental constituents of Muslim life - are:

Shahada The profession of faith in the uniqueness of Allah and the centrality of Mohammed as his prophet
Salat Formal worship or prayer
Zakat The giving of alms for the poor, assessed on all adult Muslims as 2.5% of capital assets once a year
Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim should undertake at least once in their lifetime; the annual hajj takes place during the last 10 days of the 12th lunar month every year
Sawm Fasting during Ramadan, the holy ninth month of the lunar year.

Early history

In 622, Mohammed travelled from Mecca to Medina in the hijrah (emigration) - this forms the starting point in the Muslim dating system.

After the prophet's death, his community split into followers of the caliph (head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the leader of the Islamic Ummah) Abu Bakr and those who supported Mohammed's closest relative, his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib.

This division between Shia (followers of Ali) and Sunni (followers of the custom of the caliphate) persists to this day. Although both share most of the customs of the religion, Shiites place more emphasis on the guiding role of the Imam.

About 90% of the world's Muslims are Sunni and about 10% Shia.

Sharia, the divine law of Islam by which Muslims should live their lives.

It embraces every aspect of life, including family relations, inheritance, taxation, purification and prayer and observes no distinction between secular and religious law.

How far modern Islamic states follow this principle depends on the degree of secularization they permit. It is essentially laid down by the Qur’an but has been updated and extended by Fatwa (legal opinion), consensus and custom.

What is a Muslim?

A Muslim is an adherent of the religion of Islam. The feminine form is Muslimah. Literally, the word means "one who submits (to God)". Muslim is the participle of the same verb of which Islam is the infinitive. Muslims believe that there is only one God, translated in Arabic as Allah.

What is Islam?

As stated earlier, Islam is a major world religion, with over 1 billion followers worldwide (1/5 of the world population). Although usually associated with the Arabs of the Middle East, less than 10% of Muslims are in fact Arab. Muslims are found all over the world, of every nation, color and race.

Who is Allah?: Allah is the proper name for Almighty God, and is often translated merely as "God." Allah has other names that are used to describe His characteristics: the Creator, the Sustainer, the Merciful, the Compassionate, etc.

Muslims believe that since Allah alone is the Creator, it is He alone that deserves our devout love and worship. Islam holds to a strict monotheism. Any worship and prayers directed at saints, prophets, other human beings or nature is considered idolatry.

In the Qur'an, we read that Allah is Compassionate and Merciful. He is Kind, Loving, and Wise. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Healer. He is the One who Guides, the One who Protects, the One who Forgives. There are traditionally ninety-nine names, or attributes, that Muslims use to describe Allah's nature.

Some non-Muslims mistakenly think that Allah is an "Arab god," a "moon god," or some sort of idol. Allah is the proper name of the One True God, in the Arabic language used by Muslims all over the world. Allah is a name that is neither feminine nor masculine, and it cannot be made plural (unlike god, gods, goddess, etc). Muslims believe that there is nothing in the heavens nor on earth that deserves worship except Allah, the One True Creator.

Islam is based on the concept of Tawhid, or Unity of God. Muslims fiercely reject any attempt to make God visible or human. Islam rejects any form of idol worship, even if its intention is to get "closer" to God, and rejects the Trinity or any attempt to make God human.

In Muslim understanding, God is beyond our sight and understanding, yet at the same time "nearer to us than our jugular vein" (Qur'an 50:16). Muslims pray directly to God, with no intermediary, and seek guidance from Him alone, because "...Allah knows well the secrets of your hearts" (Qur'an 5:7).

    "When My servants ask thee concerning Me,
    I am indeed close (to them).
    I respond to the prayer of every suppliant
    when he calls on Me.
    Let them also, with a will,
    Listen to My call, and believe in Me,
    that they may walk in the right way."
    Qur'an 2:186

In the Qur'an, people are asked to look around them for the signs of Allah in the natural world. The balance of the world, the rhythms of life, are "signs for those who would believe." The universe is in perfect order: the orbits of the planets, the cycles of life and death, the seasons of the year, the mountains and the rivers, the mysteries of the human body. This order and balance are not haphazard nor random. The world, and everything in it, has been created with a perfect plan, by the One who knows all.

Islam is a religion of responsibility, purpose, balance, discipline, and simplicity. To be a Muslim is to live your life remembering God and striving to follow His merciful guidance.

The basic beliefs of Muslims fall into six main categories, which are known as the "Articles of Faith":

1. Faith in the unity of God
2. Faith in angels
3. Faith in prophets
4. Faith in books of revelation
5. Faith in an afterlife
6. Faith in destiny/divine decree

In Islam, faith and good works go hand-in-hand. A mere verbal declaration of faith is not enough, for belief in Allah makes obedience to Him a duty.

The Muslim concept of worship is very broad. Muslims consider everything they do in life to be an act of worship, if it is done according to Allah's guidance.

While often seen as a radical or extreme religion, Muslims consider Islam to be the middle road. Muslims do not live life with complete disregard for God or religious matters, but nor do they neglect the world to devote themselves solely to worship and prayer. Muslims strike a balance by fulfilling the obligations of and enjoying this life, while always mindful of their duties to Allah and to others. In that regard, their faith assists them in providing guidance with such aspects of life as:

  • Morals and manners
  • Business ethics
  • Modesty in dress and behavior
  • Dietary rules
  • Marriage
  • Care of children and elderly
  • Racism and prejudice
  • Relations with non-Muslims
Hajj

Each year, over 2.5 million Muslims descend in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj. The largest gathering of humanity in any one time or place is the culminating spiritual experience for a Muslim, as well as a logistical challenge for the government of Saudi Arabia. Dressed in the same simple white clothing to represent human equality, the pilgrims gather to perform rites dating back to the time of Abraham.

The Hajj has been performed by Muslims every year for the past 14 centuries. In earlier times, the Hajj was literally the journey of a lifetime, a dream for which a person spent an entire lifetime saving up the funds.

In the Qur'an, stories about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (called 'Isa in Arabic) are abundant. The Qur'an recalls his miraculous birth, his teachings, and the miracles he performed by God's permission. There is even a chapter of the Qur'an named after his mother, Mary (Miriam in Arabic). However, Muslims believe that Jesus was a fully human prophet and not in any way divine himself.

Islam gives guidance about all aspects of life, including matters of public decency. Islam has no fixed standard as to the style of dress or type of clothing that Muslims must wear. However, some minimum requirements must be met.

1st Requirement: What parts of the body are to be covered: The first bit of guidance given in Islam describes the parts of the body which must be covered in public.

For women: In general, standards of modesty call for a woman to cover her body, particularly her chest. The Qur'an calls for women to "draw their coverings over their chests," and the Prophet Muhammad instructed believing women to cover their bodies except for their face and hands. Most Muslims interpret this to require head coverings for women. Some Muslim women cover the entire body, including the face and/or hands.

For men: The minimum amount to be covered is between the navel and the knee.

2nd Requirement: Looseness: Islam also guides that clothing must be loose enough so as not to outline or distinguish the shape of the body. Skin-tight, body-hugging clothes are out, for both men and women. When in public, some women wear a cloak over their personal clothing as a convenient way to "hide their curves." In many predominantly Muslim countries, men's traditional dress is somewhat like a loose robe, covering from the neck to the ankles.

3rd Requirement: Thickness: The Prophet Muhammad once warned that in later generations, there would be people "who are dressed yet naked." See-through clothing is not modest, for either men or women. The clothing must be thick enough so that the color of the skin it covers is not visible, nor the shape of the body underneath.

4th Requirement: Overall appearance: The overall appearance of a person should be dignified and modest. Shiny, flashy clothing may technically meet the above requirements, but defeat the purpose of overall modesty.

5th Requirement: Not imitating others: Islam encourages people to be proud of who they are. Muslims should look like Muslims, and not like mere imitations of people of other faiths around them. Women should be proud of their femininity and not dress like men. And men should be proud of their masculinity and not try to imitate women in their dress. For this reason, Muslim men are forbidden from wearing gold or silk, as these are considered feminine accessories.

6th Requirement: Decent but not flashy: The Qur'an describes that clothing is meant to cover our private areas, and be an adornment (Qur'an 7:26). Clothing worn by Muslims should be clean and decent, neither excessively fancy nor ragged. One should not dress in order to gain the admiration or sympathy of others.

Islamic clothing is but one aspect of modesty. More importantly, one must be modest in behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. Dress is only one aspect of the total being, and merely reflects what is present on the inside of a person's heart.

Dress requirements are not meant to be restrictive for either men or women, and most Muslims who wear modest dress do not find it impractical. Many people continue with their activities in all levels and walks of life.

The Commandments and Prohibitions in Islam

The Ten Commandments revealed by Moses and recorded in the Christian Old Testament are only a portion of the Qur'anic commandments.

Islam commands its followers to avoid many things. Some of them are prohibited because they contradict some of the doctrines in which a Muslim is supposed to believe. Some of them are prohibited because they are immoral or unethical or unhealthy or because they represent disobedience to the devotional duties. These prohibitions may be regarded as Islamic commandments, the violation of which may constitute a major sin. A Muslim is prohibited (Qur’an reference noted):

1. To ascribe to God a partner or associate:

    "Associate not any other god with the Almighty, lest thou sit down despised forsaken." 17:22

2. To deny revelation of God to His prophets.

3. To deny any of the prophets who are recognized by the Qur'an, such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Noah. The denial of the revelation or any of the recognized prophets is a denial of Islam.

4. To feel safe in opposition to God:

    "Are they secure against the plan of God? But none feels secure against the plan of God except the losing people. " 7:99

5. To lose hope in mercy of God:

    "...And despair not of the mercy of God. Surely none despairs of the mercy of God except the disbelieving people." 12:87

7. To swear in the name of God falsely:

    "Hast thou not seen those who take for friends a people with whom God is wrathful? They are neither of you nor of them, and they swear falsely, while they know. God has prepared for them a severe chastisement. Evil indeed is what they do!" 58:14-15

8. To break a covenant deliberately:

    "And fulfill the covenant of God when you have made a covenant, and break not the oaths after making them fast, and you have, indeed, made God your surety. Surely God knows what you do." 16:91

9. To kill a human being premeditatively.

    "And slay not the soul which God has forbidden except for the just cause.... " 17:33
    "Your lives and properties are sacred and inviolable amongst you, until you appear before your Lord.... " said the Prophet.

10. To be traitor to the right cause of one's own nation.

11. To help defeat it militarily by retreating at the battlefield when the nation is defending itself against aggression:

    "And whoso turns his back to them (the aggressors) on that day (of fight), unless maneuvering for battle or turning to join a company, he indeed incurs God's wrath and his refuge is hell, and an evil destination it is." 8:16

12. To steal.

13. To cheat in measuring or weighing in selling or purchasing:

    "Woe to the cheaters. Who when they take the measure (of their dues) from the people, take it fully, and when they measure out to others or weigh out for them they give less than is due." 83:1-3

14. To use an orphan's fund in a way that is not in his interest:

    "And draw not nigh to the orphan's fund, except in a goodly way, till he attains his maturity, and fulfill the covenant; surely the covenant will be inquired to!" 17:34

15. To insult one's own parent:

    "And thy Lord has decreed that ye worship none but Him, and do good to the parents. If one of them or both of them reach old age with thee, say not "Fie" to them, nor chide them, and speak to them kind words. And lower to them the wing of humility of mercy, and say: My Lord, have mercy on them as they brought me up (when I was) little." 17:23-24

16. To commit adultery:

    "And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an obscenity. And evil is the way." 17:32

17. To scandalize people, especially women:

    "Those who love to see that scandal should circulate concerning the believers, will have a grievous chastisement in this world and the Hereafter, and God knows, while you know not." 24:19
    "Those who scandalize virtuous, believing women (who are) careless, cursed are they in this world and the Hereafter. Theirs will be an awful doom, on the day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet testify against them as to what they used to do. On that day God will pay them their just dues, and they will know that God is the Manifest Truth." 24:23-25

18. To spy on others for no purpose of protecting your nation or yourself.

19. To backbite others, exposing to those who do not know, some shameful doing:

    ". . . And spy not nor backbite each other. . ." 49:12

20. To gamble.

21. To drink intoxicants:

    "O you who believe, intoxicants and games of chance. . .are only an abomination, the devil's work; so shun it, that you may succeed. The devil desires only to create enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants and games of chance, and to prevent you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So will you obey this prohibition?" 5:93-94

22. To eat pork or any swine's products.

23. To eat or drink blood. (This does not include transfusion of blood for necessity)

24. To eat meat of an animal that dies by itself, or the meat of an animal on which the name of other than God is invoked when it is slain:

    "He has forbidden you only what dies of itself, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which (a name) other than the name of God is invoked (when it is slaughtered) . . . " 2:173

25. To lie deliberately or testify falsely or falsify the word of God willingly:

    "Only they forge lies who believe not in the messages of God, and they are the liars." 16:105

26. To conceal a testimony when called to testify in a litigation:

    ". . .And conceal not testimony. And whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful. And God knows what you do." 2:283

27. To deliberately hinder a good cause.

28. To spread hatred by conveying to a person a bad word about him spoken by another person:

    "And obey not any mean swearer, defamer, going about with slander, hinderer of good, transgressing beyond the limits, sinful, ignoble, besides all that, notoriously mischievous. . ." 68:10-13

29. To violate the terms of a dead man's will:

    "Then whoever changes it (the will) after he heard it, the sin of it is only upon those who change it. Surely God is Hearing, Knowing." 2:181

30. To oppress the people.

31. To aid an oppressor.

    "...And let not hatred of a people because they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque incite you to make aggression. And help one another in righteousness and piety, and help not one another in sin and aggression. Surely God is severe in requiting (evil)." 5:9

32. To be proud, looking down on the people:

    "And turn not thy cheek in scorn towards people, nor go about in the land in insolence. Surely God loves not any self-conceited boaster. " 31:18

33. To be envious, wishing People ill:

    "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, From the evil of things created,. . . And from the evil of the envious when he envies . " 113

34. To antagonize a relative for no right cause:

    "Will you be making mischief in the land and cut off the ties of kinship if you come to power?" 47:22

35. To neglect any of the five daily prayers.

36. To break fasting in the days of Ramadan without a legitimate excuse.

37. To withhold the "Zakah" which is the share of the poor in the self-supporting person's wealth.

38. To neglect the duty of pilgrimage to Mecca which has to be done once in a life-time by every person who is physically and financially able to make it.

39. To neglect the duty of advising the people to do good and avoid evil when such an advice is needed and likely to be effective.

Mormon Beliefs

Source. See how similar Mormon prayers may be to your own faith here.

"Mormon" is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe in, hope in, rejoice in, and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. Mormons attest to the validity of the Bible and modern-day revelation and have a core belief in the importance of eternal families. They assert that Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 with the express purpose of restoring His Church and gospel in its purity and fullness to the earth. Mormons represent the fourth largest religious denomination in the United States.

Mormons believe that God has a plan for each of us, which began before we came to earth, and which will continue after this life. Those beliefs are set forth in thirteen clear declarations known as The Articles of Faith.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe that the family unit is fundamental and eternal. Marriage between worthy individuals is intended by the Lord to be forever by virtue of a sealing ordinance in holy temples. Modern-day apostles and a living prophet have issued a Proclamation to the World, declaring our beliefs about the nature of families, gender, parenting, and marriage.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings--male and female--are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are:
  • Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins
  • Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Mormons believe in the same path to eternal life that the Savior taught while on the earth. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ enables believers to progress in following the Savior and in becoming more like Him. It is the prerequisite for all positive action and the pathway to genuine spiritual growth. It implies belief in the perfect attributes of the Savior: His omniscience, mercy, justice, and sovereignty. With faith in the Redeemer comes a recognition of our dependence on Him and on His atoning sacrifice - for remission of our sins and for the sustenance, comfort, and remediation of our sorrows. We apply the atonement as we repent sincerely, and as we apply it, His grace enables us to overcome weaknesses, heal from pain and trial, and to find peace and rest in Him.

Even our deepest traumas can be healed though His atoning power. Additionally, as each repentant believer evidences a willingness to comply with the Savior's prescribed pattern for entrance into His kingdom, he or she enters the waters of baptism. Baptisms are performed as the Lord exemplified, by immersion and by one who holds priesthood authority. Following baptism by immersion comes the laying on of hands by one in authority who bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This gift is an increased measure of the light of Christ that dwells in every person who comes to earth. It is the right to the constant companionship of the third member of the godhead, a personage of spirit, even the Holy Ghost. This gift is invaluable, for through the Holy Ghost, we receive the mind and the will of God for our daily walk, and gain access to every spiritual gift the Lord can bestow on His worthy followers.

Mormons believe that God, our Heavenly Father, has a plan for each of us. He knows us individually and will help guide and direct us through our lives. We have divine purpose. We were sent here to receive physical bodies. Before we came to earth, we dwelt with our Father in Heaven lacking bodies of flesh and blood; in other words, we were personages of spirit, or Heavenly Father's spirit-children. Therefore, God is literally our Father in Heaven. We were sent to this world to gain experience, to learn to distinguish good from evil, to learn and grow through the choices we make as we "act and are acted upon" in mortality. Vital to our experience is the gift of agency. No soul is coerced to follow the path the Savior marked. Because of the gift of agency, we feel consequences of our own actions as well as the consequences of others'. With a veil of forgetfulness provided that keeps us from remembering our lives as the spirit children of God, we are called to live on the earth in faith. Through making wise decisions, we strengthen our faith and commitment in Jesus Christ and He, in turn, endows us to find joy and to become more like Him.

Mormons believe that Heavenly Father's plan was instituted eons ago, before this earth was created, and that He has revealed His plan through His prophets to His children on earth since the beginning of time. Mormons believe that all the prophets, beginning with Adam, have understood this plan and taught it to mankind, including that a Savior would be provided. These teachings were once a part of the Old Testament and found in other ancient records. Therefore, the true gospel has been found sporadically on the earth wherever and whenever people have listened to the prophets. Because of a dirth of prophets since the death of Christ's apostles, the true gospel had to be restored. Mormons believe that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth with its pure and complete teachings, ordinances, and divine authority to help each of us come to Christ and be perfected in Him.

The Church of Jesus Christ was restored to its fullness through Joseph Smith in 1820. As a fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees in Manchester, New York, and prayed to know which church he should join. It was then that Joseph Smith had what Mormons call the “First Vision.” Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Him and told him he was not to join any of the churches. Instead, he was to restore the Church of Jesus Christ. Through instruction from an Angel named Moroni, Joseph Smith found and then translated the Book of Mormon, a record of ancient inhabitants of the Americas. The Book of Mormon peoples were descendants of Jacob, who were led out of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian captivity. They were led to the Americas by the Lord; they kept the Law of Moses, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Their prophets testified that Christ would be born to a virgin, and would be crucified for the sins of the world. Christ visited these peoples after His resurrection.

Joseph Smith spent his life acting as missionary and leading the church as a prophet. The restored Mormon Church has the same teachings and organization as the Church established by Jesus in New Testament times. Revelation through a modern day prophet has helped the church adapt to modern demands and cultures.

At the core of a Mormon's testimony is faith in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and Joseph Smith’s restoration of the true church on earth. A basic belief in these truths is the foundation of a testimony of the Mormon Church. Mormons believe and strive to follow the Ten Commandments and the Articles of Faith, which outline more basic Mormon beliefs.

Because members of the Mormon Church believe in a modern day prophet, they are open to revelation from the Lord to change or expand the Church. Membership in the Mormon Church influences every aspect of the lives of its members.

Mormons follow The Word of Wisdom, a commandment that forbids drinking alcohol, coffee, tea, or using tobacco or illegal drugs. The law of tithing was later given to the people. Mormons believe in dressing modestly. Mormons refrain from recreating or shopping on Sundays in order to keep the Sabbath Day Holy. Living the Mormon lifestyle is easy when one has a true and strong testimony of the fundamental beliefs of the true and revealed gospel. Living these commandments brings joy and stability, freedom, and safety to followers of Christ.

The Articles of Faith

Mormons accept the principle of continuous revelation as an essential feature of faith in God and Jesus Christ, whose relationship with His children is ongoing, and His words to us, continual.

While they are not a complete summation of every doctrine of the Church, the Articles of Faith nonetheless provide great insight into the basic theology of the Mormon Church.

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz., apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul. We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

The Plan of Salvation: The Degrees of Glory

The Lord has revealed to His prophets something regarding heaven and what we can expect to find there. We have a few writings from ancient prophets who were "caught up" to see in vision the realms of glory. But for most of Christendom, information regarding the nature of heaven is vague. We know there is an afterlife, and most Christian faiths preach that there will be a resurrection and judgment, and that the righteous will dwell with God.

Fortunately, we have the testimony of a Latter-day Prophet, Joseph Smith, who saw in vision the three degrees of glory. He has recorded this vision in the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the volumes of Mormon scripture. Joseph said, "By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God--Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning; Of whom we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:12-14).

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the following truths:
  • In the Lord's house there are many mansions, but there are three main divisions in heaven, or three degrees of glory.
  • The highest degree is called the "Celestial Kingdom." The Celestial Kingdom is where God Himself dwells.
  • The middle degree is called the "Terrestrial Kingdom."
  • The lowest degree is called the "Telestial Kingdom."
  • The kingdom which most people would call "hell" is called by the Lord "outer darkness." This is the only kingdom without glory and is where the devil and his angels will be cast out to after the Millennium. The only people who will inherit this kingdom are those who commit the unpardonable sin, which is called "the sin against the Holy Ghost." The sin against the Holy Ghost is to have a perfect knowledge of Christ (such as the prophets have, because of their visions) and then to deny Him, crucifying Him anew.
This is how Joseph Smith described the kingdoms of glory:

The Celestial Kingdom is to be compared to the glory of the sun and is where God dwells. People who inherit celestial glory are those who "received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name." They have kept the commandments of God and have been cleansed from all their sins. Their names are written in the books of heaven. They have overcome by faith and are "sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true." The Father gives them all things. In heaven, they are priests and kings and receive of His fullness, and of His glory. They shall dwell in the presence of God and Christ forever. These are they whom Christ shall bring with Him when He comes in His glory. They will "come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people." They shall have part in the first resurrection. The glory of their bodies is as the sun.

The Terrestrial Kingdom can be compared to the glory of the moon. The people who inherit the terrestrial kingdom may have died without learning the laws of Christ. They are those who inherited spirit prison rather than spirit paradise in the Spirit World. They are those who were preached to in the Spirit World, and who, though they did not receive the testimony of Jesus while on earth, were willing to receive it in the Spirit World. They are the honorable men of the earth, who were "blinded by the craftiness of men." These are they who receive of the glory of God and Christ in heaven, but not of their fullness. "These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fullness of the Father." Some are those who were not valiant in the testimony of Jesus while they dwelled on earth.

The Telestial Kingdom can be compared to the glory of the stars (which appear dimmer than the moon in the night sky). Even this, the lowest kingdom of glory, is so glorious that it "surpasses all understanding." These are those who would not receive the gospel of Christ or the testimony of Jesus. But they have not denied the Holy Spirit, as those who are sent to "outer darkness." Because they have chosen not to repent while on earth, there is some degree of suffering involved in the Spirit World before inheriting this kingdom. The people who inherit this kingdom will not be resurrected until Christ finishes His work, in other words, until the last resurrection. Christ does not visit this kingdom. These people are ministered to by the Holy Ghost through ministers sent to them from the terrestrial kingdom. The people who inherit telestial glory are of any persuasion except the correct one..." For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another, but they receive not the gospel of Christ. They are liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers. They refuse to receive help from the Lord on earth.

The Plan of Salvation is often called the Plan of Progression, not only because we progress from the premortal world to earth life to the Spirit World to a kingdom of glory, but because we are meant to learn, grow, and serve throughout all eternity. Those who inherit the Celestial Kingdom will eventually comprehend everything and thus will be called gods. However, there is no progression from one heavenly kingdom to another; all learning and progress takes place within the kingdom of glory assigned.

Overview of Other Religions
The following provides a simplistic high level view of a few of the religions you may have heard about. The reader is encouraged to pursue other readings, discussions and teachings to explore the similarities and differences offered by each. Click on the icon below:
Sample denominational family trees can be found here.
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The eyes believe themselves; the ears other people.
German Proverb

We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their actions.
Dwight Morrow, American businessman, ambassador and senator

If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President

Though all society is founded on intolerance, all improvement is founded on tolerance.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright

In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words; people, product and profits. People come first.
Lee Iaccoca, American businessman

The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.
Mother Teresa, Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic Missionary

Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.
Jean de la Fontaine, French poet

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain't so.
Mark Twain, American author and humorist

If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking.
General George Patton Jr, World War II US Army Commander

I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.
Dudley Field Malone, American statesman and lawyer

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Russian writer and pacifist

I can live for two months on a good compliment.
Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist

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Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President

No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America - there are no "white" or "colored" signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle.
John F. Kennedy, 35th US President

I pay the schoolmaster, but 'tis the schoolboys that educate my son.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philospher

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist and essayist

In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher

When you talk, you repeat what you already know; when you listen you often learn something.
Jaren Sparks

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold onto two opposed ideas at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer

Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi, Indian pacifist and leader

I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source. My principal business is giving commercial value to brilliant but misdirected ideas of others.
Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessman

If we always view it from the same perspective, we will tend to notice the same things.
Frans Johansson, Author and businessman

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Hungarian physiologist

One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.
Victor Hugo, French playwright and activist

Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish writer and historian

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President

You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US President

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.
Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman

The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.
Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist

The rich would have to eat money, but luckily the poor provide food.
Russian Proverb

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher

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