My name is Michael Hoffman. I am the local leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church and have lived in Williamsport for the past five years. I am an orthopedic surgeon and a father of 10, married to my wife, CaMarie, for 19 years.
During this time of unprecedented interest and curiosity in our church, I want to take this opportunity to share with our local communities a little more about who we are and what we believe.
My purpose in writing this article is not to provide a detailed description of our doctrine, nor is it an attempt to convince others of the truthfulness of our beliefs. Rather, my sincere hope is to share with you who we are as a people and how our beliefs influence how we live our lives. I suspect that for many people living in our area, Mormons are a bit of a mystery.
Statewide, there are more than 50,000 members of our church meeting in 110 congregations. Nationwide, there are more than 6 million members, making our church the fourth largest denomination in the country. Worldwide, there are more than 14 million members of our faith who gather for worship in more than 28,000 congregations in 177 countries.
There are over 2,500 members of our church in the greater Williamsport area, part of seven congregations from Towanda to Sunbury, Lock Haven to Berwick.
We come from all walks of life - farmers and factory workers, builders and businessmen, gas workers and homemakers, doctors and lawyers, teachers and professors can all be found in our congregations. We have members from many different countries and states and many others that are lifelong residents of this area.
Are Mormons Christian? This is an often-asked question and our answer is a resounding YES!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church but is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Rather, it is a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ originally established by the Savior as recorded in the New Testament period of the Bible. We believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save all mankind from death and their individual sins. Jesus Christ is central to the lives of Church members. The only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. We strive to follow his teachings and his perfect example.
Do Mormons believe in the Bible? Yes! The Mormon church reveres the Bible as the word of God, a sacred volume of scripture. We cherish its teachings and engage in a lifelong study of its divine wisdom. Additional books of scripture - including the Book of Mormon- strengthen and reinforce God's teachings through additional witnesses and provide moving accounts of the personal experiences many individuals had with Jesus Christ. In the words of a current apostle of the Mormon church, M. Russell Ballard; "The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor deemphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends and exalts it."
Some of the principles at the core of our beliefs that we live by include:
Christian service - A recent University of Pennsylvania study by the School of Social Policy and Practice concluded that the average church-attending Mormon spends about 430 hours per year providing volunteer service-nearly nine times more than the average American.
We believe very strongly in the importance of service to those around us. In the past four years, our local members have donated over 5,000 man hours of service through annual large scale service projects in the communities of Sunbury, Williamsport, Lock Haven, and most recently Bloomsburg. Our members truly love the opportunity to join together in Christian service. We have also participated in many smaller scale service projects and have partnered with other organizations to provide food donations and assistance to many local food banks and pantries in our area.
Worldwide, over the past 25 years, our church has provided over $1.4 billion dollars and millions of hours in humanitarian aid worldwide through major disaster assistance as well as projects such as global immunization efforts, providing clean water, and training doctors and volunteers in neonatal resuscitation programs.
We don't share this information to boast, simply to increase understanding of who we are and our sincere desire to help our fellow man.
Missionary work - Following the Savior's charge to "go ye therefore and teach all nations," our church is a missionary church. There are over 50,000 full time missionaries currently serving worldwide. These missionaries and their families pay for their own missions. They willingly give 1 1/2 to 2 years of full-time missionary service and are assigned to many different parts of the world.
From our local area, we currently have missionaries serving in Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Taiwan, and the United States.
Family - In 1995, our church issued a Proclamation to the World on the Family. In this proclamation, The First Presidency of the church stated:
"THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed."
As a father, I am so grateful for a church that teaches us how important family is and how to raise our children and help them navigate through the many challenges of life that they experience.
In August 1928, President Herbert Hoover said: "The foundation of American life rests upon the home and the family."
Our invitation - We sincerely hope that the way we live our lives will leave no doubt that we truly believe in the teachings of Jesus and strive to follow His perfect example.
Our invitation to the world in the words of Philip, Christ's disciple, is to "come and see." There are many misperceptions about our church. We invite all to come and find out for themselves who we are. Visitors are always welcome at our Sunday worship services. Our local meetinghouse information can be found on the website www.lds.org"lds.org/locations. We ask that those who desire to know the truth about our beliefs and who we are as a people get more information from correct sources by visiting official church websites: www.mormon.org and www.newsroom.lds.org.
Newsweek in 2005 described the Church as a "21st century covenant of caring." We hope to live up to that description. As people get to know us, the Mormons next door, and vice versa, prejudices and misperceptions will diminish, and individuals, like you and I, will grow in mutual respect, tolerance and understanding.