First of all, if a Mormon decides not to go on a mission, he won't be in trouble. It is highly encouraged, but the Church understands that people have different levels of interest, commitment, and ability. So if you decide not to go, you won't be kicked out, disciplined, or anything like that.
However, a mission is a great opportunity. I went on a mission to Japan, where I shared the gospel with thousands of people. It was an amazing experience, and I would go again in a heartbeat if the occasion came up.
It also helps to understand that Mormon men aren't all asked to serve missions. For example, "Mark" on mormon.org writes:
...I was born with a disability and as such I was unable to serve a full two year mission. I had a desire to serve but it wasn't required of me. I later had opportunities to share The Gospel of Jesus Christ with my friends and with fellow Christians who lived in my home town.
When he writes, "it wasn't required of me," Mark probably means that his bishop or someone else explained that he could be of service in other ways.
Now, what about women? Women are not required to go on missions, but they can do so if they'd like to. Here is a quote from the Church's Young Women Sunday course instruction manual:
Unmarried women age twenty-one and older may also serve full-time missions. However, young sisters should not feel obligated and should not be urged unduly to serve full-time missions. A mission should not interfere with a young woman’s opportunity for marriage.
The Church wants to leave women the opportunity to be married. This isn't surprising, since the Church puts great emphasis on the importance of the family. My own wife did choose to serve a mission, and she's glad that she did. We both felt better prepared for our marriage as a result of the lessons we learned by being full-time servants of Christ, far away from home.
The LDS church has an "Article of Faith" which states that we believe in "obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." How, then, can we claim to be faithful Christians and baptize illegal immigrants?
According to the Deseret News (source), The LDS church has no official policy on illegal immigration, and it does not ask bishops or other church leaders to check on members' immigration status.
Here are some interesting quotes from that article:
"The church's view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, relating it to coming onto someone's property uninvited. "There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status."
"The church does not see itself as an enforcement agency," Mark Tuttle, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Thursday, repeating earlier church statements.
The church, Elder Pingree said, does everything it can to encourage its members to stay in their home countries to strengthen local stakes and wards. "But once they're here, we want to make them feel like part of the community, a valued part of the community," he said.
So, it may still seem strange that the Church distances itself from disciplining its members for illegal trespassing. But I think it's important to understand that individual members still must determine their own compliance with the law, and illegal immigration cases are not easy to dismiss in a black and white manner.
A couple that is living together without being married will need to live in separate locations, or make some other arrangement. The principle behind the rule is that sexual relations outside of marriage are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This can be a very difficult decision, and I know of several couples who have made this decision before being baptized. I know there are others who decided to continue living together and not be baptized. It's a personal decision, and of course they can still attend church services even if they decide not to be baptized.
The LDS Church teaches that chastity before marriage is an essential part of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, just as Jesus did, the Church gives members and potential members every opportunity to change their lifestyle without condemning them.
Anything that defiles our bodies (hurts them, makes it harder for them to feel the spirit of God) pushes us farther away from God. The temple is a place where those who are close to God can go to feel closer to him. Mormons also think of their bodies as temples. If we are filling our bodies with chemicals that may harm us, our Bishop may wonder why we are doing so, and ask us what the temple means to us, or why we feel that we are ready to attend the temple.
There is a great article on energy drinks called: Energy Drinks: The Lift that Lets You Down.
Mormons believe that smoking tabacco shows disrespect to our bodies, and is a violation of God's commandments regarding health. So, a Mormon buying cigarettes for someone else would have to have a very good reason for doing so.
Otherwise, buying cigarettes for someone shows that a Church member may not be as close to God as they should. This is possible because it is up to all of us, individually, to educate ourselves. The LDS gospel is extremely personal. We decide how close to God we wish to be. However, helping others defile their bodies may push us farther away from God and the gifts we receive from Him.
If your family member wants you to buy them cigarettes
If you are a Mormon and are feeling pressured to buy cigarettes for someone else in your family, please think deeply about the situation. Is there a way to change the situation while expressing love for your family member? You can also freely discuss the situation with your LDS bishop without worrying about getting into trouble.
If a friend wants you to buy them cigarettes
If a friend wants you to buy them cigarettes, and they know you are Mormon, chances are they already feel a bit bad about it. But you never know--they might even be trying to be mean. So please, communicate your thoughts about it to them and see where it goes. It is unhealthy to continually let yourself be pressured into breaking your own moral code.
If a friend wants you to buy them cigarettes, and they do not know you are Mormon, please think about telling them that you are a Mormon. You may have hesitated in the past, but it's never too late to say, "you know, I was thinking about this. It makes me uncomfortable but you've been a really good friend. Can we come up with a way around this?"
God wants you to use your mind and heart to come up with creative solutions to problems that stand in your way. We may never be perfect at dealing with our troubles, but just trying to do our best is part of learning what it means to "overcome the world."
If you have a tattoo, you can definitely learn the gospel and be baptized. Then you can prepare to go to the temple and attend the temple and do everything a normal LDS church member can. As a lifelong Mormon, I don't really judge people by their tattoos, I have Mormon friends with tattoos, I see people walking through LDS temples with tattoos occasionally, and overall it's not a big deal to me.
If you already are a baptized member, and you just got a tattoo, you haven't necessarily committed a sin. But you might not appreciate fully the viewpoint of the LDS church (or God, perhaps?) on tattoos. First, tattoos are not super evil or something like that. But God teaches us that our bodies are sacred, and they should be treated like holy temples. The treatment of the LDS temples is similar to the way we should treat our God-given bodies.
I think there's definitely a loosely-defined intuitive element to the tattoo discussion, and you could certainly argue that tattoos actually look pretty cool! You could argue the point all day. So this may take some personal prayer and pondering / meditation to figure out. Everyone has to think this stuff out for themselves, in the end. And if you decide you love tattoos, you think they're great, and so on, it's then your burden to figure out why your beliefs differ from the LDS Church and what you're going to do about it. Quit the church and become a tattoo-loving person? I dunno--that seems like a really uneven exchange to me. But it's your life.
In its teachings on tattooing, the LDS Church again emphasizes that our bodies are temples (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). If we defile our own bodies with tattoos, that probably means that we don't understand temples, their significance, and their purpose (a topic worth studying). So it seems unlikely that a member of the Church who just went out and got a tattoo would be given a recommend to enter an LDS temple.
The LDS Church is against elective abortion. Please read the linked article to better understand the term "elective".
If I had an abortion, can I still become a Mormon?
Yes, you can.
You may need to discuss this with a local Mormon church leader before being baptized, because they will want to make sure you are clear about the LDS teachings on abortion.
Can Mormons have abortions?
(Well, you can do whatever you want, right? But I guess you mean "will the Mormon church approve"...)
If you participate in an elective abortion as an LDS church member, you may risk losing your membership in the Church.
If a child is born out of wedlock, and marriage is not an option, the Church encourages the placement of the child in a loving home through adoption.
There is no set line. That's why it's important to keep studying the gospel, to get personal answers to your questions as you study, pray, and meditate.
One common answer to "where is the line" is, "if you are asking yourself that question, you should talk to your bishop." There is a lot of truth to that.
There are some good answers to common questions at the Church youth website. On that page you will find this issue discussed. To me, it's important to know that there are many people you can ask if you have questions about mistakes you've made:
- Parents or trusted family members
- Friends in the church
- Church members, such as your seminary teacher, or a member of the bishopric, etc.
It's actually this:
- Mormons in Muslim Nations: Hold church on Fridays
- Mormons in Israel: Hold church on Saturdays
- Mormons in Other Nations (including USA): Hold church on Sundays
You can read more about this topic at the FAIR LDS wiki page: Sabbath changed to Sunday. Here is a quote from that page:
Latter-day Saints do not base their worship practices on an analysis of early Christian history, or on the comments of scholars in Biblical commentaries, though these sources can confirm Church teachings. Rather, the Saints follow the guidance of a living prophet. However, it seems clear that the Latter-day Saint practice of observing the day of rest and worship on Sunday—like most of the Christian world—is consistent with the earliest Christian practice of which we have record.
The article also explains that Mormon congregations in Israel worship on Saturdays, and LDS congregations in Muslim nations worship on Fridays.
Clearly, the Lord is far more concerned that His people worship Him regularly, and that they set aside a day to dedicate to him. He does not wish us to contend about a matter as trivial as the day dedicated to his worship.(See: 3 Nephi 11:29-30, Colossians 2:16.)
The modern Church, guided by prophets and apostles, does not seek contention with others over the "proper" day of worship; rather, they invite all to worship and come unto Christ. This tends to be done on the day which accords best with the practices and patterns of the culture in which they find themselves.
Why does the LDS church have statues of Joseph Smith if they don't believe in worshipping graven images?
While Mormons revere Joseph Smith as a great prophet and teacher (similar to Moses, Noah, etc.), they do not worship him. In addition, a statue alone does not imply worship. Around many nations, including the United States, there are statues of leaders, dignitaries, and other noteworthy people. You won't find many who worship those people, especially the statues, but many people revere them as great historical figures, and a statue becomes a reminder of their life and service.
Mormons worship God the Father and hold deep gratitude for Jesus Christ as the Savior. In the 531 pages of the Book of Mormon, references to Jesus Christ appear over 3,900 times. Joseph Smith's name appears 14 times in the front matter of the Book of Mormon, including the title page, introduction, and testimonies of Book of Mormon witnesses.