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June 24th, 2011
02:11 PM ET

Explain it to me: Mormonism

With two Mormons running for the Republican presidential nomination and a play riffing on the religion tearing up Broadway, the country appears to be having a Mormon moment.

Here are 10 facts about Mormonism. What other questions do you have about the faith?

1. The official name of the Mormon church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

2. Mormons consider themselves Christian but their beliefs and practices differ from traditional Christianity in key ways, including belief in sacred texts outside the Bible and practices like posthumous proxy baptism and wearing special undergarments.

3. There are about 14 million Mormons today, with more than half living outside the United States.

4.  The Mormon religion was founded in upstate New York in 1830, when Joseph Smith published a translation of writings he said he found and translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English.  That's the Book of Mormon, which believers say consists of writings produced by ancient American civilizations.

5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has outlawed polygamy since 1890.

6. Early Mormons faced intense persecution, so church headquarters relocated from New York to Missouri to Illinois in rapid succession. Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in Illinois. His successor, Brigham Young, led early Mormons to the Great Salt Lake in what's now Utah, where church headquarters remains.

7. Mormon men are expected to perform two years of missionary work beginning when they're 19 years old. Women can also do missionary work when they turn 21, but there is less pressure to do so.

8. Famous Mormons include J.W. Marriott, founder of the hotel chain, Glenn Beck and Gladys Knight, a convert.

9. Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney represent different generations of Mormonism that have related pretty differently to American culture.

10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is running some major ad campaigns to take advantage of burgeoning interest in the religion.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mormonism

soundoff (3,741 Responses)
  1. Luther Butler

    A Temple garment (also referred to as garments, or Mormon underwear)[1] is a type of underwear worn by members of some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, after they have taken part in the Endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any previously endowed adult to enter a church temple.[2] The undergarments are viewed as a symbolic reminder of the covenants made in temple ceremonies, and are viewed as either a symbolic or literal source of protection from the evils of the world.[3]
    The garment is given as part of the washing and anointing portion of the endowment. Today, the temple garment is worn primarily by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and by members of some Mormon fundamentalist churches. Adherents consider them to be sacred and not suitable for public display. Anti-Mormon activists have occasionally publicly displayed or defaced temple garments to show their opposition to the LDS Church.[4]
    GOOGLE MORMON UNDERWEAR

    June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Artist

      And there are mormons who believe the magical underwear protect them from evil.
      .
      ummmmm cooooo koooooo

      June 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Tom

      I thought about becoming Mormon, but the Endowment Ceremony worried me. I have so little free time, and am so well endowed already, I figured it would take way too long to finish the ceremony. So I passed.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Erin

      Artist- The material itself doesn't hold any "magical" powers. The garment is a SYMBOL of something sacred and is treated with that level of respect. Much like the American flag or cross to some people. It represents something that we hold very, very sacred and is meant to be a reminder. Any protection we receive comes from our faith in what it represents- not in the actual garment.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  2. Johnson

    Though Mormons are decent people, most of them can't think their way out of a wet paper bag. They are taught so much, "God is the reason for everything", that critical thinking and problem solving skills are yielded to, "God will help me though", or "if i pray hard enough, i'll get the results i want".

    Another thing that is off to me is that young, freshly married teenagers, are encouraged to start having babies before starting a career, often leaving families struggling with one working family.

    There's also a lot of racism towards blacks in their book, basically stating that "blackness" is a curse from God. Mormons deny it, but if you look at the history, and their views towards interracial relationships, and Africans in general, it's pretty clear that they still hold and teach an 1830s view of African-Americans.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Reality

    Mormonism – full disclosure:----------------------

    A business/religious cult based on Joseph Smith's hallucinations/con which has bought respectability with a $30 billion business empire, the BYU "mission matured" football team and a great choir.

    From: lds-mormon.com/time.shtml

    "The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the t-ithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. Ti-thes are collected locally, with much of the money pas-sed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. "By Monday," says Elbert Peck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City "know every cent that's been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks." There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in t-ithes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons."

    "The Mormons are stewards of a different str-ipe. Their charitable spending and temple building are prodi-gious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that TIME estimates to be at least $6 billion strong.

    Even more unusual, most of this money is not in bonds or stock in other peoples' companies but is invested directly in church-owned, for-profit concerns, the largest of which are in agribusiness, media, insurance, travel and real estate. Deseret Management Corp., the company through which the church holds almost all its commercial as-sets, is one of the largest owners of farm and ranchland in the country, including 49 for-profit parcels in addition to the Deseret Ranch. Besides the Bonneville International chain and Beneficial Life, the church owns a 52% holding in ZCMI, Utah's largest department-store chain.

    All told, TIME estimates that the Latter-day Saints farmland and financial investments total some $11 billion, and that the church's nont-ithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million. "

    "Members of the church celebrate the Lord's Supper with water rather than wine or gra-pe juice. They believe their President is a prophet who receives new revelations from God. These can supplant older revelations, as in the case of the church's historically most controversial doctrine: Smith himself received God's sanctioning of pol-ygamy in 1831, but 49 years later, the church's President announced its recision. Similarly, an explicit policy barring black men from holding even the lowest church offices was overturned by a new revelation in 1978, opening the way to huge missionary activity in Africa and Brazil. "

    The leaders of the Mormon Church/"Cult" are not paid? Actually, they are paid via being executives of the large Mormon-owned businesses:

    e.g. http://207.224.220.202/excerpts/hier2.htm

    "The Quorum of Twelve's president Ezra Taft Benson was a director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co. Apostle Howard W. Hunter was president of the Polynesian Cultural Center (Hawaii), and director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co., of Continental Western Life Insurance Co., of Deseret Federal Savings and Loan, of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corp., of Heber J. Grant & Co., of PHA Life Insurance Co. (Oregon), of Watson Land Co. (Los Angeles), and of Western American Life Insurance Co. Apostle Thomas S. Monson was president and chairman of the board of Deseret News Publishing Co., vice-president of LDS Social Services and of Newspaper Agency Corp, and director of Beneficial Life Insurance Co., of Commercial Security Bank, of Commercial Security Bankcorporation, of Continental Western Life Insurance Co. (Iowa), of Deseret Management Corp., of IHC Hospitals, Inc., of Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co., of Murdock Travel, of PHA Life Insurance Co. (Oregon), of Pioneer Memorial Theater, and of Western American Life Insurance Co. Apostle Boyd K. Packer was chairman of the board of Utah Home Fire Insurance Co., while also director of Murdock Travel and of Zion's First National Bank. Apostle Marvin J. Ashton was president of Deseret Book Co., chairman of the board of ZCMI, and director of Beneficial Development Co., of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corporation, of Laie Resorts (Hawaii), and of Zion's Securities Corporation. Apostle L. Tom Perry was director of American Stores Co. (which operated Skaggs Drugs and Alpha Beta supermarkets), of ZCMI, of Zion's First National Bank, and of Jewel Companies, Inc. (Chicago), and trustee of LDS Social Services and of Nauvoo Restoration. Apostle David B. Haight was director of Bonneville International Corporation, of Deseret Management Corporation, of First Security Bank of Utah, of First Security Corporation, and of Valtek, Inc., while also a trustee of Deseret Management Corporation Foundation. Apostle James E. Faust was vice-president of Deseret News Publishing Co., director of Commercial Security Bank, and of Commercial Security Bank Corporation, while also a trustee of Ballet West and of LDS Social Services. Apostle Neal A. Maxwell was director of Mountain Fuel Resources, Inc., of Mountain Fuel Supply Co., and of Deseret News Publishing Co. Apostle Russell M. Nelson was director of Zion's First National Bank. Apostle Dallin H. Oaks was chairman of the Public Broadcasting System (national), while also director of O.C. Tanner Jewelry Co. and of Union Pacific Railroad."

    June 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jason Jackson

      serving on boards of Corporations has not been allowed of the 12 in decades.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  4. Tom

    For a very entertaining and pretty accurate explanation of the genesis of Mormonism, the South Park Episode "All About Mormons" is excellent. http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s07e12-all-about-mormons

    June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • ROCKWOOD

      The MAGIC HAT!!!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  5. detroit james

    I have a pair of magic underwear.... I call them my 'lucky' underwear though. I wear them on weekends... they work pretty good.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  6. SCMorrell

    Also, there is no explanation of what the granite building shown in the link thumbnail is or why it is important. CNN needs to stop publishing content farms.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Ty Cook

    Number 9 is an opinion not a fact. Glenn Beck is also a convert. And number 10... seriously this is one of the top ten interesting facts you could dig up on the Mormons? How about that Mormons believe in a restored gospel consisting of prophets and apostles, or that Joseph Smith was the first Mormon to run for the office of President in 1844? Those are pretty interesting facts.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Artist

      So how far did he get running for prez? Wasn't he arrested? Apparentlly he liked to look at seer stones in his hat and talked to imaginary beings. He clearly suffered from schizophrenia and sadly was murdered by a mob after he was arrested. What is most interesting is 14 million people's faith is in this man.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  8. Cr@ckP0t

    I pray to the Tea Pot in the Sky...except on Sundays. Then I pray to the Man in the Sky so I can get my mansion! Humans are suckers for a good story.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  9. Mary

    To all who say Mormons are not christians, let me assure you, we are. Isn't a Christian someone who believes in and follows Jesus Christ? I am Mormon and I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior. I believe in God, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I try to be like him by serving others and helping those in need. I believe in the Bible, and believe that Christ died for my sins and was resurrected. I do not see how that is not being Christian...

    I also believe that it makes sense that he would manifest himself to people in OTHER parts of the world, not just those written about in the Bible. Hence the Book of Momon... a record of the people in the Americas who also believed in Christ and followed his teachings. It is another testament of Jesus Christ, giving second witness to the Bible that he lives.

    I completely understand how people get so many misconceptions about the LDS faith, and that people have probably heard untrue things, but people who are not LDS should not assume they are experts...

    June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • William Lansdowne

      Execpt of couse that the bible is written about people who actually existed.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Been There

      Excellent points. So, then, are you prepared to live in a polygamous heaven?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • buckybadger

      @William Lansdowne, sorry your wrong. Jesus never existed. Look up a guy name Horus and you will find that the story is rip off. Sort of like who Avatar ripped off Dancing with Wolves, well the story of Jesus is practically plagiarism when it comes to comparing it to Horus.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  10. ROCKWOOD

    I would trust a Mormon any further than I can fart a watermelon, and contrary to popular belief, that isn't very far.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • ROCKWOOD

      would=wouldn't

      June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  11. Marcelino

    RLP1509,

    Please....

    June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  12. ScipioRising

    Mormons are not Christians and don't ever let one of them tell you that they are. They are a false prophet "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." Matthew 7:15. No matter how they spin it their beliefs are anit-Christian.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Artist

      So says one schizophrenic to another lol

      June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • ScipioRising

      And Artist, what do you know about it?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Artist

      Artist

      So says one schizophrenic to another lol

      June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
      ScipioRising

      And Artist, what do you know about it?

      -----------–
      Actually it was simply an observation. I find humor in one particular mythical believer telling another that their myth is false. Not sure if I can break it down any further.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Luther Butler

      Many Mormons believe they are saved because of their acceptance of Jesus Christ. There are errors in other church doctrines. Baptist believe they were started by John the Baptist. Check out Amish beliefs. Who are we to judge whether people are Christians or not? I still wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president because of their vows to the Mormon doctrine.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  13. Jim

    How do magnets work??

    June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  14. Megan

    Hmm. I converted @ 14 yrs ago with my husband and children. When he became disabled we quote unquote got no help and in reading stuff found they did not agree with our values and did not stay in the church. We were offered when he died we could use their church. My sons and I had already found a different church for services. I told them that I already found a church politely.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Tom

    Attention Mormons: Do not be scared to look at what the LDS church calls "anti mormon literature". When I invest my money I make sure to cover all the bases and do all the research I possibly can. So why would it be any different with religion? You can't just leave out one side of the argument because the other side tells you to not read into it.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • knn

      I spent my whole mission in Louisian reading anti-mormon literature. My church does not tell me not to read it. It just gets old after a while. It's all recycled hogwash designed to keep the ignorant from learning.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • May

      I so agree with you, Tom. If church members would just read the history books – they aren't anti mormon literature, just history told objectively,

      July 3, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  16. Toosliq

    Wow...Mormonism sounds great! Not only all the benefits of everyday Christianity, but in the end you get to be "God" of your very own universe! Although, if your a woman, you will be a "goddess" married to your "god-husband" and as you eternally copulate you will be eternally pregnant populating your own personal universe to rule, just as GOD does now! How wonderful to be like GOD! Wait – that sounds familiar...

    (Serpent to Eve: Eat this and you will be like GOD...)

    I KNEW I heard it all somewhere before...

    June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • William Lansdowne

      Yeah and another huge hole in thier dcoctrine is the whole get married in heaven thing

      ok , they say the are the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints < but Jesus taoght that

      " For in the Ressurection They niether marry or are given in marrige but are like the angels in heven"

      Mathew 22:30

      June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  17. Trevor Rowe

    Too bad there is no temple in Kline Colorado and there was one in Colorado until 1986.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Luther Butler

      The Mormon church in Kline, Colorado ceased to exist several years ago, but the building was there the last time I was in the village. Various protestant groups took over the building. Perhaps Mormon Temple is different from the regular church building used in Mormon villages. My apologies. I will tell you this, the night I spent in the Kline Mormon Church when they tried my dad is one nightmare I'll never forget.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  18. Been There

    Some of the comments about Mormon doctrine are inaccurate, but the important question is this: Are American voters ready to elect a President whose stated goal is to someday become a God with a physical body - just like Elohim and Christ, two separate physical beings - in a polygamous heaven? (Both Romney and Huntsman are lay leaders of the Church and accept these doctrines.)

    June 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • William Lansdowne

      I could never vote for anyone is is not smart enoufgh to catch or see past this cherade of mormanism . If they hoodwinked him into this religion that has so many hols in its doctrin and history what would wise and savy forien leaders and crafty lobbiest be able to hoodwink them into?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Tom

      As much as I am all for religious equality, I tend to agree with William. I mean if you can't see through that smoke screen, then what can you see through?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • walkngboots

      1000x NO! Nor am I about to vote for anyone who holds to literal beliefs in religious texts. The evangelicals are just as frightening, since, as a non-Christian I'm assured they are looking forward to having their Marriage Supper of the Lamb with their Lord/Lover immediately following a holocaust of mammoth proportions, in which all non-believers, including myself and my family will be annihilated because we refused to "believe the right thing".

      It is insanity and absolutely immoral. I do NOT want that sort of mind guiding public policy, or creating legislation and social engineering. Someone with the ultimate vested interest in bringing about the "Apocalypse" (in their own mind, at least), however pleasant and wonderful they seem to be, cannot be trusted with my future. They deeply believe I'm an enemy standing in the way of their Lord's triumph over "sin". This is sick and sad. Why do otherwise intelligent people get carried away with this nonsense??

      June 25, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Absolutely immoral to believe the literal doctrine of God – whatever you happen to believe that is? How do you get your morality, if not from God? From what authority do you take your idea of morals? Why is it superior to taking your morals from the written word of one you believe to be the Divine Creator Who is a loving Father and wants nothing more than for you to grow up happy and prosperous in eternity?

      June 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Willia Lansdowne

      To walking boots I would say < I definetly belive in the texts of the Bible but I dont call thenm a riligious text , Becvasue that just inmplies a rigidg following of a doctrin iof me . It moore like writeing sthat were God Breatherd and inspired by His Holy Spirit So you could put all youor faith in them The Birth and life and even death of Jesus Completed manty Propecies, His birth in the town of Bethlehem was propised in the Book of Micah < How He was to die was Prophisied in the Pslams < they Pierced my feet and hands and divided my garments among them < So these is something going on with the Bible its a supernatuaral Book << And your whole " fear mongering " concept of Gods Judgment Just isnt accurate < he is a loveing God Just as most Parentsa love tjier children sio he loves us < the Judgment is for the overall rebelion and rejection of God and of His sone who in as plain as day came to lovgwee aND SAVED US AND TAUGGHT US THE REVOLUTIONARY SERMON AN THE MOUNT < you know do unto others as you would have them do unto you < how could anyone turn away such lovwe and greace < instaed of focusing on this appocolyptic view open ups and revieve this amazing grace !

      June 28, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  19. John Do

    It's always easier to join people when they throw stones rather than stand back, question why and research, and then decide for yourself whether the stone throwing is legitimate or not.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  20. cultish

    They wear "holy underwear" to protect them from evil spirits, and the founder of the religion claims to have translated tablets found under a rock in new york by wearing "special glasses" given to him by an angel written in "reformed egyptian heiroglyphics" whatever that is? Also unlike the Bible where there is evidence of historical peoples and coins, the ones mentioned in the Book of Mormon have never been found. Have to be pretty dull minded to believe in this religion or perhaps be born into it but then one would think as you got older you would find the story to unbelievable to be true and leave.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • William Lansdowne

      Preach on and expose this mega cult may Gods Holy Spirit of truth open peoples eyes to this cult especialy those who are truly seeking him and caught up by these wolves in sheeps clothing.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.