Gordon B. Hinckley, a former Mormon prophet, talked about the importance of cornerstones in the Mormon religion. He outlined four cornerstones, critical parts of the faith. To help listeners understand why cornerstones matter in the Mormon religion, he discussed a tradition associated with Mormon temples:
“In each new temple we have had a cornerstone ceremony in harmony with a tradition that goes back to ancient times. Before the general use of concrete, the foundation walls of the building were laid with large stones. A trench would be dug, and stones would be placed as footings. Starting at a point of beginning, the foundation wall would be run in one direction to a cornerstone; then the corner would be turned and the wall run to the next corner, where another stone was placed, from which the wall would be run to the next corner, and from there to the point of beginning. In many instances, including the construction of early temples in the Church, cornerstones were used at each junction point of the walls and put in place with ceremony. The final stone was spoken of as the chief cornerstone, and its placement became the reason for much celebration. With this cornerstone in position, the foundation was ready for the superstructure.”
He then referred to the comment made by Paul in the New Testament, concerning cornerstones:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. (Eph. 2:19-21.)
When each of the cornerstones is properly fitted together, the building stands strong and firm, able to withstand trials and stress. In the same way, a church that is properly founded on cornerstones can also withstand the challenges of the world. Four Mormon beliefs form the cornerstone of the church.
The most important cornerstone in a building is called the chief cornerstone. In the church, that cornerstone, of course, is Jesus Christ, as Paul explained. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the Mormon church in casual conversation, is Jesus’ church. This is why the true name of the church has his name right in the very center of it. It is through Jesus Christ that we are saved, and we owe our very eternal lives to Him. Each of the other cornerstones are related to the chief cornerstone.
The second cornerstone is Joseph Smith. The modern story of the Mormons began when Joseph Smith was fourteen years old and couldn’t figure out which church he ought to join. He read a scripture written by Jesus’ brother James:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5, King James version of the Bible)
Recognizing the wisdom in this advice, Joseph went into the woods to pray, and was visited by both God and Jesus Christ. Jesus answered His question. In later years, an angel would tutor Joseph in preparation for the restoration of the gospel. Read more about the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The third cornerstone is the Book of Mormon. Of this book, President Hinckley said, The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” (Book of Mormon title page.)
It is here. It must be explained. It can be explained only as the translator himself explained its origin. Hand in hand with the Bible, whose companion volume it is, it stands as another witness to a doubting generation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is an unassailable cornerstone of our faith.
The final cornerstone is the restoration of the priesthood. The Old Testament shows clearly the importance of the priesthood in God’s church. God laid down very specific instructions for the Aaronic Priesthood, which could, at that time, be held only by certain men. It was not open to all. Over time, the rules about who could hold it have been adjusted to meet God’s needs, but until the apostasy, the priesthood was on the earth. When God restored the church, He had to restore the priesthood, which is the authority to act in God’s name. It is through the priesthood that the most important work of the Savior’s church is done today, including baptism and marriage.
These cornerstones work together to form the foundation of the Lord’s church. Each of them-scripture, the Savior, the priesthood, and the restoration of truth, are found in the Bible by careful searchers. With the Savior as the Chief Cornerstone, the corner that holds everything together, the Lord’s church can function as it functioned in the days of the Savior’s earthly ministry, and as God promised it would again function when the restoration occurred:
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3)
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.