When I was a Mormon missionary in El Salvador more than five years ago, I was often asked this question. Each time someone brought up the large number of churches that existed in that country (almost one per block), I got kind of excited because the Mormon Church has a pretty good explanation for its existence.
Something often forgotten by the Christian world is that while Christ was living, He didn’t only preach, teach, and serve others, He also found time to organize a church. He didn’t just bring together a random group of philosophers or religious thinkers to sit around and chat. He picked some humble fishermen, gave them permission to act in His name (by giving them the “priesthood” by the laying on of hands), and assigned them to go out and organize congregations and pass on the priesthood to others they deemed worthy. After His death, Christ continued to direct the operations of His organization through revelation to the men He had set apart to be His mouthpieces on the Earth (this calling and setting apart of men on Earth to speak for Christ has a long history as evidenced by the Old Testament prophets like Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc.).
This is when the trouble began. The apostles went out and taught the same things Christ had taught them. They baptized the way He had taught them and the way He himself had been baptized. However, many of the people they were preaching to had never heard anything like the simple, rational, monotheistic religion of Christianity. Many of them had grown up with Greek and Roman Gods or other religions that were quite different from Christianity, which did not have the mythology, the wild and sometimes immoral Deities, or the intricate rituals of their pagan traditions. Because of this, though many of them embraced Christianity, they had a hard time practicing Christianity the way that they were taught to do so by the apostles.
Slowly, the Christian church began to change. Many of the doctrines were slowly altered and corrupted. At the same time, as they often tend to do, men started to exploit the church for their own purposes. They sought out positions of power in the church in order to get rich and exploit the members of their congregations. No such individual could be worthy of receiving revelation from Christ the way the apostles did. Slowly, the individuals through whom Christ could speak and direct His church died off, and the Christian church went from being Christ’s church to being a church led by men, some with good intentions, but none with revelation coming from Christ. Because of this, the Church strayed further and further from its roots.
Over the years, many individuals realized what had happened. This realization was slow to develop due to widespread illiteracy and dependence on the leaders who were corrupting the interpretation of the writings about Christ’s life, His teachings, and the doctrines of His Gospel. It was sometimes painfully clear that the church established by Christ no longer existed. Things had changed. Some of these individuals (Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc.) tried to reform the church. They wanted to go back to the way things were when Christ was alive. During this period many new churches were formed. The interesting thing was that all of these churches were Christian churches. They all believed in Christ, yet they all had different ideas about the doctrines He taught.
To this day, these divisions, and more, exist. Each church teaches something slightly different. It is a confusing world to live in. However, while each of these churches offers many good and true teachings, none of them has the complete and perfect truth taught by Christ so many years ago. That truth was corrupted early on, and the authority to act in Christ’s name was lost. A reformation was not enough. Instead, there needed to be a reestablishment of the original Christian Church, and it again needed to be led by Christ himself through men He chooses to be His voice here on Earth.
This is where the message of the Mormon Church is unique. We claim to be that reestablished original Christian Church. While that claim may sound rather bold, or even outright absurd to some, I believe it to be true. Another unique thing about the Mormon Church is that we don’t ask anyone to take our word for it and just believe this story because it sounds right. Instead, we just invite you to find out for yourself. Think through the facts outlined above, do some more research to validate them and to find out more about this reestablishment I’m talking about, and then pray about it. Ask God and see what He says. Try attending a Mormon Sunday service and see if it feels right to you. Just give it a shot and decide for yourself. That’s how I did it, and I’m extremely happy I did.