Faith on the Hill: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Published: Monday, November 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 13:11
In the past year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has hit two stages in big ways: the U.S. political arena and Broadway. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has tentatively addressed his relationship with the Mormon faith in the Republican primary race at the same time as audiences on Broadway flock to the smash hit "The Book of Mormon."
On the Hill, members of the Tufts Mormon community take a personal and community-based approach to the faith. Every Tuesday night, the Tufts Latter Day Saints Student Association (LDSSA) — a group of seven students — meets at the Interfaith Center where they pray, talk, laugh and catch up on each other's weeks.
The church as a whole encourages a special time set aside every week when families or young singles get together for communal spiritual thought and an opportunity to relax and socialize.
In addition to Tuesday night meetings, every Sunday, the LDSSA attends a local congregation, or what the LDS Church calls a ward. The Tufts group attends a ward in Cambridge, bringing them together with undergraduate students from schools in the Boston area, including Harvard, MIT and Boston University.
LDSSA co-leader Kismet Lantos-Swett, a senior, explained that the LDS church is a Christian organization, but that it differs from other Christian churches in several important ways.
"Jesus Christ is the center of our church," she said. "In that respect we are a Christian church, because we believe that he was our savior, atoned for our sins, and came to save mankind."
"However … we are different from other Christian religions because of our history," Lantos-Swett said.
"One of the big things that makes us different than other Christian denominations is we believe that Jesus Christ and God have always called prophets to teach his plan and gospel," LDSSA co-leader Jeffrey Torruellas, a senior, said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became an official organization in 1830. Mormons believe that in 1820, a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith from New York had a revelation.
"We believe he saw a vision of God and his son Jesus Christ, who told him to organize the Church," Lantos-Swett said.
According to the beliefs of the LDS Church, Smith was told to restore Christ's original church, which had fallen away since his death and the death of his apostles.
"We hold the leaders of our church as prophets and apostles, and we believe that they do receive revelations for church members in these modern days. Many other Christian religions believe that the Bible has been closed, that all the scriptures have been closed, but we believe that they are open and in action," Lantos-Swett said.
A community on the Hill
Lantos-Swett compared the group members to brothers and sisters from the same family who, despite being different in many ways, share a united experience.
"It is a wonderful thing to know that there are a few people in the Tufts community who have similar experiences to me, and who I can relate to on this level," Lantos-Swett said.
"We get together and try to support each other in academic and social issues, and be the support for each other that our families are at home," Torruellas said.
For two freshman members of the group, Kyle Duke and Mara Lemesany, the active LDS community has been a significant part of their social lives in their first semester at Tufts. Though small, the group has been welcoming, they said.
"I knew we would have a small group of LDS students, and I am perfectly happy with it," Duke said. "It is important for me to have other LDS members that go to Tufts and to know that there are others that have the same beliefs and standards I do. Socially, we have our own clean fun. We are like our own small family here at Tufts."
"Because there are only seven of us, everyone is a core member," Lemesany said. "In a way, I like that more than a larger group because we have the opportunity to become a close-knit community," she said. "Finding a campus with other LDS students was a priority for me when looking at colleges, because that kind of connection provides a one-of-a-kind support, understanding and strength."
Members with a mission
In addition to the seven members on campus, two Jumbos are currently far from the Hill in Chile and Hungary participating in one of the most recognized features of the LDS Church: a mission of up to two years to share the gospel of the church away from home.