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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. rayp

    To really experience Mormonism you have to live for a while in Utah. For three years we lived in married student housing and went to college. We experienced the full extent of their philosophies. From missionary workings, the value of the local church, and a book by Fawn Brodie we learned what it's like to be chastised. So be it.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  2. enough already

    There are anywhere from 20,000-40,000 varieties of cults who call themselves christian. the mormon cult just happens to have 14 million member who share a similar dilusion (but of course even they don't all agree). From the pope to josepsh smith to fred phelps they are one in the same. Imagine an environment where there is enough confusion about the base ideology that you could have that many different versions. Obviously something is very wrong if your diety is incapable of presenting a clear and easily defined message to it's followers.

    Turn you back from all religion and take the first step towards a shared human experience free from delusion. A shared human experience capable of empathy and respect for all human beings. To be clear, that is empathy and respect for the human being....and vehement disrespect for their delusional and dangerous faithist ideology.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Sean

      The irony in that is rich. Respect people–unless they're those dangerous religious types who have done uncounted good in the world (naturally, because only the bad should be counted!)

      June 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • enough already

      sean

      There is nothing ironic stating respect for human beings and direspect for faithist ideology. I respect you by not jailing you for your beliefs, by not flying planes into builidings, by not ostricizing you or forbidding you from particiating in society despite our differences. And I disrespect your faithist ideology by logically, calmly and geniunely debating the merits of that belief system. By veiwing the evolution of theology, by learning and understanding the history of christanity (in this case) and by respectfully urging others to do the same. Hopeful that others will come to the same understanding as I.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Enough.... Sounds like you are taking the path of “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

      I love the Belief Blog. Its amazing how the words of radicals always find their way of echoing each other. Enough, your words I have heard those of the 700 club ilk repeat over and over about the Gay and Lesbian community. You love the person but you hate what they do and you wish for others to hate just as well and then the world will be a better place.

      As foolish as they are when I read post like yours it just tells me that right left, atheist / Faithful …

      Its really no difference for your goofballs on the extremes. Just a constant drone of hate like me hate like me ….

      Enough .. in another life you would be a member of the Westburo Baptist church.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  3. Statistic

    I like how this article leaves out all of the key weird things about this religion, like they teach that you can run your own planet if you lead a good enough life.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Blake

      Please tell me where they teach that. I am An LDS member and that is not part of what my religion teaches.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • emanym

      maybe you're not high enough in the religion to receive this knowledge yet. may I suggest checking your theton levels with your e-meter? Oh I'm sorry, that's the other wacky religion.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Lin

      In my experience, I've found that the 'key weird stuff' people think Mormons believe is mostly the result of misunderstood doctrines, half-truths, and outright lies that are told about us.

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

    C-R-A-Z-Y

    June 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Frogist

    Snapple Fact # 11: Mormons were the villains in the first Sherlock Holmes story.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons" (Dame Jean Conan Doyle)

      June 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • emanym

      Snapple Fact # 666: Mormons can only buy their undergarments from an approved merchant after presenting their card.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  6. Marty in MA

    Religious zealots in all flavors are dangerous.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Adam

      I think Sam Harris encapsulated it well when wrote: "To presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil."

      June 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  7. Eric G

    More posts about who the REAL Christians are.........
    The LDS and all denominations of Christianity do share the most important trait of all religious belief.

    Burden of proof and no verifiable evidence to support their claims.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      There is no burdern of proof if they don't require you to believe.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Uncouth Swain: Incorrect.

      There is no burden of proof if there is no claim of accuracy or fact. Required belief is irrelevant.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I have to disagree. The could be a scientific proof that only one person may understand. You and I might not even begin to get it and consider the man insane. But the man would be correct in his proof.
      Being able to prove something is not the same as something being true. Science is not the end all of understanding.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  8. Thomas

    In our world, moral character ofttimes seems secondary to beauty or charm. But from long ago the Lord’s counsel to Samuel the prophet echoes: “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Way too much judging going around on this blog –

    June 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  9. Carolina

    Their freaking weird and naive.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Weird yes, but naive no. If you live in Utah and don't belong to LDS, getting fcuked over by a Mormon is not considered a *sin* for them because if you're not Mormon you're not saved and a spiritual write-off anyways.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Absolutely false. Anybody who claims such and acts on it is violating the great commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. We do not view non-mormons as "spiritual write-offs." We have the ordinances for the dead precisely because we hope that they will accept them at some point in the afterlife if they never had the chance or never took the chance in mortal life. We cannot force them to, and don't believe the ordinances do anything unless and until the spirit of the person for whom they were done accepts them.

      We want to help others and see everyone enjoy happiness. We strive to love and care for everybody. We are not perfect. There are those amongst our number who are arrogant and prideful. But that is not adhering to our doctrine.

      June 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  10. emanym

    This article is full of half truths and fluff. Just the sort of stuff you would hear from a missionary. Mormons have a saying for not divulging too much information about their chuch – "Milk before meat!" Joseph Smith was a money digging scoundrel. They were persecuted because they did horrible things! I am a former mormon and I graduated from BYU. My own sweet mother could not attend my wedding because she was not a mormon. Family oriented – HA!! You learn NOTHING about God's "one true church" while you are an active member. If you want to know about the mormon church, do not ask an active mormon!! Ask someone who had the guts to leave. Leaving is not easy. Unless you've been there, I don't expect you to understand.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Sean

      Being inactive myself, I understand: you are sadly mistaken.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Blake

      I find your comment full of errors if you were a LDS member as you claim. You said your mother could not attend your wedding signifying it was in the temple and if you were in the temple you would understand why she could not attend. You would have also chosen to have the wedding there, therefore if was your fault, not the faiths, that she did not attend. You could have easily had a wedding outside the temple and gotten sealed at a later date but YOU decided not to. Therefore I find little reason to believe any of your claims.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • emanym

      They're coming for you Sean. I let them know you are inactive.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  11. Suzy

    As a member of the LDS church I have to say this is a good rundown of some of our beliefs. Thanks for getting your facts straight! I do have to argue with that last comment that most Mormons are white. More than 50% of Mormons live outside the US and come from many different ethnicities.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • YBP

      And since the late 1960s blacks are in fact currently considered to be full-fledged human beings.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  12. Reader

    An honest question for Mormons: Why the book of Mormon? God has given us all the information we need in the Bible. He specifically states in Revelation that nothing else would be added. I don't get how a new book could be written with many thoughts that differ from the bible, and you can claim it is from God. If you really understood the Ransom, you would know nothing else is needed for God to save us, including a new book.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • JeramieH

      >God has given us all the information we need in the Bible.

      I'm sorry, which version of the Bible are we talking about again?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • buckybadger

      You do know that Jews feel the same way about the New Testament right? Why did you need a new book? Also if you had ever read the bible instead of just talked about it you would find that the book contradicts itself. So to bash a religion that came up with a new book that might have some contractions to your bible is a bit odd to say the least. Both books where written by man.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • YBP

      Crazy vs Crazy. No one wins.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Only sheep need a shepherd

      you really believe "a god" wrote the bible (god's prophets). Humans wrote the bible dipsh!t.

      Believe NONE of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

      The blind Faith of idiots boggles my mind

      June 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Yep

      You realize the bible as we know it was compiled centuries after John received the book of Revelations right? And that it is commonly believed that he received that before he wrote the Gospel of John? That verse is referring to the revelation John received, not the collection of books that would be later compiled to become the Bible. What's wrong with believing that God still speaks today?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • gmpalmero18

      We believe that the Book of Mormon was needed because some important truths were left out of the Bible through its many translations. We still believe in the Bible, but feel that it is needed to more clearly understand the word of God. The Revelations scripture is interesting because the same thing is said in Deuteronomy 4:2, plus the Revelations of John was not necessarily the last book written in the Bible. It was probably written about the same time as some of the other epistles of John.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Ken_Can_76

      I'm not LDS myself, but you do a disservice by giving incorrect information. As a point of order, Revelations was written in 95 AD and not actually ADDED into the Biblical Canon until almost 400 [397 AD] years after Jesus Christ had come and gone.

      Additionally, if you were to study the context of the Book of Mormon... the time it was "written" coincides directly with the Bible... the two books were written side by side, just on different continents. Of course all of this is debatable... but if you want to tear something down, you first need to know how it was put up. By bringing up the "As per Revelations, why add?" argument... you have announced to members of the church that this really isn't a discussion you are prepared to have.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nooneofconsequence

      This is a very fair question. You are referring to Revelation 22:18 ...If any man shall add unto these things.... The answer is that man cannot add to God's word, but certainly He can. A quick review of chronology demonstrates that this must be the intended message of the scripture: a similar scripture is located in Deut. 4:2. If your interpretation of these scriptures was correct, any scripture following Deut. would be void. What value is additional scripture? Take any topic that Christians have debated for the last thousand years, they haven't changed: baptism, the nature of the god head, works vs. grace. Two inteligent and open minded individuals could come to profoundly different conclusions and have a legitimate debate regarding any of these issues based on the Bible alone. Adding a second reference would help clarify some of these issues. Say 1,500 verses are in the bible. If another 1,000 verses were available, those would help clarify the basic principles of God's gospel. Matthew 19:16-22 is a good example: What must I do to inherit eternal life? You and I will read this and explain it in different ways: the LDS philospohy is better supported by this text. The same is true if studying the nature of the God head at Christ's baptism. Many principles accepted by most Christians are not well defined in the bible at all. They were actually established in the Nicene Creed (which Mormons reject), which we could both agree is a text added to God's word. People are not members of the LDS church as a result of an ignorance of the bible. They study it like other Christians.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Only sheep need a shepherd

    May God…..God bless... ..How could God....I pray to God.....God has a plan...my prayers...

    Do you believe in Zeus?, Apollo?, Ra?, Brahma?, Raluvhimba?, Allah?, (Insert one of the 1000’s of GODS humans have worshipped on this planet, in all of history, here?).
    No, you say? Christian? Just Jesus? All of the millions of humans that died fighting for, and believing in, their gods, before you, were wrong? No way!! They’ll never get into heaven.!! They were duped!! It’s a God D@mn shame!! If only Joseph Smith was born sooner!!

    Wake. Up. Earthlings! Humans NEED to believe in a God IOT help maintain a stable moral path, period. If one never existed, our specie’s intelligence would necessitate/require us to create one.

    The most in need of a belief in god are the weak, desperate, and unintelligent.

    Ok OP, riddle me this smarty pants, what are the odds that the stars could form and life could exist and we can survive and the delicate balance and.....

    Guess what? The odds of life existing is 100%. The very fact that you're alive, and reading this, validates the percentage.

    In closing, IMHO, if you believe in a god, you're a(n)_________.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • JB

      Men do not believe in God because they have proved him, rather they try endlessly to prove him because they can’t help believing in him. He has established that in the hearts of his children.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Actually, the reason that we practice ordinances for the dead (baptism being the most famous) is precisely because those who lived at times and places where it was impossible – for any reason – for them to learn of and accept the ordinances in life still deserve to have them. It is also still their choice; they need not accept the proxy ordinances.

      But it is because God loves us and wants ALL of us to come home that He left the way for us to ensure all who have ever lived will have the chance at accepting the ordinances that are required for exaltation and to return to be with Him.

      June 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  14. buckybadger

    Love how other religious groups want to point the negatives of the Mormon religion. Guess what your religions is marred with horrible acts as well. To me you are all nuts. You will follow people with out ever giving question to their motives and more times than not become sheep. There is no god. It is a made up idea.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  15. JeramieH

    "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"

    See how easy it is, people? Everybody's homework assignment this weekend is to start a new religion. Say the right words with the necessary charm, and people will follow you anywhere.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Add in a bonus like allowing multiple wives and you'll have more disciples than there are roaches at a Grateful Dead concert. Even though that only lasted 60 years in LDS, it sure got them off to a great start.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  16. Larry

    I wonder how many in Bethlehem knew that right there, close to them, the Savior had been born? The Son of God, the long-awaited and promised Messiah—He was in their midst!

    Do you remember what the angel told the shepherds? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” And they said to themselves, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass” (Luke 2:11, 15).

    Like the shepherds of old, we need to say in our hearts, “Let us see this thing which is come to pass.” We need to desire it in our hearts. Let us see the Holy One of Israel in the manger, in the temple, on the mount, and on the cross. Like the shepherds, let us glorify and praise God for these tidings of great joy!

    Sometimes the most difficult things to see are those that have been right in front of us all along...

    June 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  17. JB

    Everybody talks so much about what is true and what isn't; whether or not a young man has the ability to explain his religion; that it doesn't seem logical that a man translated gold plates by the gift of God. The truly important stuff isn't explainable. It's based on prayer and faith in an unseen Being. Not much about religion is logical, but that doesn't make it less true. Jesus said those with ears to hear will hear. Open your ears and hearts to new ideas, pray about them, and if God is really there he will answer you. If he isn't, then you've lost nothing.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Albo

      Except a lot of precious time believing and praying!!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  18. movieguy54

    I wished that people get along and leave religion out of there lives and let people believe in what they believe. I know what i believe and i will let it stand at that.
    Thank you

    June 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  19. gogogopher

    Mormons are like Muslims in that they BELIEVE they will have MANY WIVES in heaven...or whichever planet they god over.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Suzy

      That's not true.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Blake

      Please show me where it says they believe that.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. Andrew

    Jesus Christ lives. His Atonement blesses all people. Those are the central themes of the Book of Mormon, according to prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who bear witness of the book’s divinity. They promise that those who read this scripture “with a sincere heart, with real intent,” will receive a witness that the Savior lives and that His Atonement applies to them.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      We tend to overlook, amidst all the odd history and practices, that Mormons consider Jesus to be a created being, and that his death does not fully atone for our shortcomings. Thus, it is not a Christian religion in any sense, which is fine with me and is fine with them.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Andrew

      Andrew, notice how critical thinking need not apply.

      Despite the popularity of truthiness, your 'heart' tends to be a bad indicator of what is true or not. Evidence and critical thinking are much more useful in determining the validity of your statement than what is essentially a call to 'be as gullible as you can'.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Michael

      I read God Delusion by Richard Dawkins with a sincere heart and I got a warm feeling that it was true.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • YBP

      Vicarious Redemption = theology of butchery. You love all that blood and gore, don't you? The main stream religions have the same lust for it as well. In fact, according to your iconography, one nail in each hand isn't quite enough, is it? You guys imagine two nails in each arm.

      Yeah, and I think it's very comical how you guys named the Hebrew god Elohim, as if that word were a proper name. Look it up in the dictionary. But Joseph Smith didn't have a dictionary, did he? Just some snippets of bible-speak (in Jacobean English, no less) floating around in his head. Enough to fill a whole book in fact.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:32 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.