In this day and age, a church which preaches abstinence from tea, coffee, alcohol, smoking, swearing and premarital sex might be considered to have a tough time.
But the Aylesbury ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as Mormons) has just celebrated its 50th anniversary and has over 300 members.
Bishop Craig Sheppard, who has led the congregation for the past four years, said: “We do lose a few young people. It is a big challenge.
“We build very strong families, the family is a place of refuge and support. We have programmes to teach the youth to appreciate themselves and each other.”
Worldwide the church has nearly 15 million members.
It started in America and members believe Jesus visited the country shortly after his crucifixion to speak with prophets. They believe He then returned in 1820 to appear before Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church.
Bishop Sheppard said: “Our church did start in America, but Christianity started in Israel and it’s not an Israeli church it’s a worldwide church.”
Bishop Sheppard said that prophets from Israel travelled the world to spread their message of Christianity and Jesus chose to visit those in America, declaring it the Promised Land.
Mormons are Christians and follow the scriptures of the bible, but they differ from other branches of Christianity in that they believe the bible is not the final word from God and the Book of Mormon is a very important part of their faith..
Bishop Sheppard said: “We believe God continues to speak to man today, it is an on-going process.”
In the early days of the church polygamy was practised.
Bishop Sheppard said: “This was done to grow the early church and to protect the women. There was a lot of persecution of the church , a lot of members were killed. There were a lot of widows and men took additional wives to protect them.”
In 1890 polygamy was stopped and today any member practicing it would be excommunciated.
In fact marriage is considered to be not just for life but for all eternity, and if a man or woman remarries after being widowed, they would expect to be reunited with their first spouse in heaven after death.
Divorce is rare, although Bishop Sheppard admits it is not as rare as he would like it to be.
Spreading the word is a very important part of the church and to this end most young adults undertake a two year mission away from home.
Bishop Sheppard said: “The church was established in Aylesbury through missionaries who came here. They met with local people in the Conservative Club and talked together and read together.”
On September 29 1963 the church was formally established, meeting at Prebendal Community Centre on Southcourt until their church was built on the Oxford Road.
In addition to the chapel there is a cultural hall, classrooms and baptism font where members have full submersion baptism after the age of eight.
The most famous Mormon family in the world is the singing group The Osmonds who during the height of their fame in the 70s always spoke openly about their faith.
In 1984 their parents George and Olive visited the Aylesbury ward during their year as missionaires in London and the visit was recorded in the Bucks Herald.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary there was a normal church service but all the speakers had a retrospective theme, and following the service there was a ‘munch and mingle’ with lots of food and a celebration cake.
Bishop Sheppard said: “We always welcome non members to our service. You will find warmth and acceptance here. We invite all to come and be with us. On Sunday we start at 10am .”