1. Ward, Joyce BSN, RNBC

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Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frequently are referred to as Mormons or Saints. They believe that Joseph Smith was a tool of the Lord in restoring the Gospel of Christ to the earth in its original form. This occurred in 1830 in New York. Because of a period of intense persecution, the Saints moved westward, eventually making their home in Salt Lake City, Utah. From there, church leaders sent groups to colonize more than 350 towns west of the Mississippi, mostly in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, with a few in Nevada, New Mexico, California, and elsewhere. Because of these colonies, there tend to be areas that have a higher concentration of church members in these states. However, church members feel a strong obligation to share their beliefs with all the people of the world, so they may be encountered throughout the United States and the rest of the world.


Religious Beliefs and Their Implications

The Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have physical, resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, and that they are separate and unique individuals, and that God is the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9). This makes us brothers and sisters in the spiritual sense. The Latter-day Saints believe that we all lived together as a family before coming to earth to gain a mortal body, and that Jesus Christ is our elder brother, our savior, and our redeemer. It is through him that we gain the opportunity to return home to our father in heaven. The third member of the godhead is a separate spiritual being, the Holy Ghost. He is a comforter and a guide. He prompts us to do good and to avoid harm and evil.


The priesthood is the right and power to act in God's name and is available to every worthy male member. It gives husbands and fathers the right and power to give members of their families and others in the church special blessings of health, strength, guidance, and comfort.


Church members also believe in a health code called the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89). This code advises against the use of alcohol, tobacco, and hot drinks. Modern interpretation of this advice includes the use of coffee, black tea, illegal drugs, and other harmful substances. The Word of Wisdom encourages the use of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. It suggests that meat should be use sparingly, preferably just during times of cold or famine. Members of this church believe their body is a temple for the spirit of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16). They are encouraged to keep it free of substances that could harm or deface it. When caring for your patient, you should avoid smoking in the home.


Families are meant to be eternal in nature, linked together by generations through righteousness and covenants. How we respond to our experiences here on earth determines whether or not we become part of that eternal family (Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 131 and 132).


Death is viewed as the next step in our progression. Returning home to a Heavenly Father who loves us and has been intimately involved in our lives is something to be anticipated. Death is a joyous experience for the person who goes to meet loved ones gone before. It is sorrowful only for those left behind.


Saints who have been through a temple and have received certain promises and knowledge wear special underclothing, called garments that are sacred to them. These white garments replace regular underwear. The top is similar to a tee shirt, and the bottoms are similar to boxer shorts, except a little longer. They are worn next to the skin as a "shield," and women will wear their bras over the garment. It is uncomfortable for most Latter-day Saints to be without these garments, although they can be removed for bathing, physical examination, or medical procedures, and in situations where they would be conspicuous.


When helping the patient to bathe, treat these garments respectfully. Avoid placing soiled garments on the floor. Place them in a hamper, so they can be washed with other white laundry. The patient will have fresh, clean garments to wear after bathing. A patient will feel most comfortable when his/her body is modestly covered, in front of strangers or even in front of other family members who may be in the room during the home care intervention or procedure.


Life, the gaining of a physical body, is a critical part of becoming like the father in heaven. Overcoming trials and temptation, and coping with pain, illness, and adversity are considered a planned part of life. Demonstrating courage and integrity in the face of such opposition is believed to build character and God-like qualities. Members of the church believe it helps them gain understanding and patience. Good health and strength are blessings, and they provide opportunities to help others, raise families, and enjoy life to its fullest. All life gives experience, which will work to one's benefit if one strives to do one's best with the circumstances given.


Prayer is an important part of the life of Latterday Saints. They pray before meals and to begin and end each day. They pray when they need extra strength, help, or guidance. They pray to express love and gratitude (Alma 34:17-27; Alma 37:37). Sometimes priesthood leaders are requested to come to the home of the sick to pray with the family and to give special blessings. These blessings may be accompanied by an anointing of the head of the sick with consecrated olive oil (James 5:14, 15).


Latter-day Saints fast once a month (usually on the first Sunday of each month) to demonstrate self-control and increase spirituality. They also may fast at other times of special need. Although this practice is encouraged, those who are weak or in delicate health are not expected to fast. Each Latter-day Saint makes this decision for him/herself. Home care clinicians can help the patient by offering clinical education on the potential effects of going without food and drink as it relates to the patient's medications, disease process, wound healing, and strength.


When death is expected, the church encourages the family to make the necessary preparations that will enable the family to carry on. Advanced directives are advised. Death should not be hastened by medical intervention, but life does not need to be prolonged beyond the body's natural capacity. It should be the family's decision to abide by the requests of the patient. The desire and goal are to provide dignity and comfort through the end stage of life and help the family feel peace with the process.



Latter-day Saints are grateful for the help of medical personnel during times of illness. They recognize modern technology to preserve or extend life as a blessing. They also believe in faith and prayer to extend and improve life or to provide comfort in death. When entering the home of church members, home health or hospice nurses should avoid using profanity or crude language. Realize that these patients are Christians. They rely on prayer and scripture reading to bring comfort. The name of God is used reverently, and casual or profane use of the name of God will be uncomfortable for the patient and family to hear, especially in their own home. Their scriptures include The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ, as well as the Bible, and they believe that reading and studying the scriptures will help them know the mind and will of God. They will appreciate respect for their beliefs, and many Saints may welcome questions or discussions about their beliefs with the healthcare worker who is providing care for them or their loved one.



Please note that much of this information in this article was obtained from the official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,, and The Book of Mormon is also a good general source.


Alma 34:17-27;


Alma 37:37


Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89


Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 131 and 132


Hebrews 12:9


I Corinthians 3:16


James 5:14, 15