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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. AbbyNormal

    I wear magical undergarments on weekends........

    June 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  2. no lando

    I've lived among Mormons for over 50 years and have found them to be honest hardworking friendlly normal people. They have strong family values and are always willing to help others in need. If a Christian is defined as someone who follows Christ's teachings, then the Mormons are among the most Christian of Christians. I understand that they are one of the 5 largest denominations in the US and one of the fastest growing in the world. I much prefer to have them as neighbors than the malcontents and antagonists that like to bad mouth them and everyone else.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • albert

      Sorry, all that makes them is "nice people", not Christians. I know satanists, and atheists that are very nice people too.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      Those who say they have found Mormons to be nice people, generally do not write that they have been invited to join in Temple activities. Nor have they spoken with parents who have lost their children through the indoctrination practices, demands for money, and breaking of family ties.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • MW

      S. Hackbarth–
      Only worthy adult members of the LDS church are allowed to participate in Temple activities. No one who isn't a member is invited to participate in them. I have however, invited my neighbors to bring their families to the Halloween party, picnics, etc., because I thought they would think it was fun. I'm sorry that your child apparently joined a church you don't agree with, but it seems like your hate rather than their religion that is pushing you apart.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Yeah, when somebody joins the church, we absolutely do not try to alienate them from their families. It's often hoped that they will be able to spread the word TO their family. If not, so be it, but any separation is caused by the family's hatred for the church, not the church telling anybody to avoid their family. The mormon faith won't tell you to choose between your family and the church; if your family makes that demand, however, and you choose the church and your God, then it is they who have ripped themselves from you, not the other way around.

      June 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  3. Gabriel

    Trying to understand or judge a religion based on opinions, stories, or even historical facts, without inquiring of God Himself is not different than trying to understand father-son love without ever being a father. There are certain truths in life that can only be understood spiritually. If so many people and religions proclaim that there is a God, why aren't we willing to ask him what is true or not?

    June 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • BR

      The difference is, we all have actual fathers whether we've had contact with them or not. It is a physical fact of life so your analogy falls flat. The problem is that everyone can ask the thing they claim is god and everyone can get a different answer and claim it is god's word. If he exists and is so powerful then he ought to be able to instantaneously make everyone understand his wishes rather than letting all cultures stumble and fumble their way through prejudices and ignorance to further their own agendas.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  4. crystal

    good article of beliefs without throwing in half truths. The comments? Its a free for all, not constructive for anyone. Maybe next time the just put the article out there without the option to comment? More than one religon is being bashed here and the comments are people's way of being predjuice in a cowardly way. As long as religon followers are happy, do you really care/ does it even matter what they believe?

    June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Janice

      This is a great idea crystal! This is an all out attack on Christians with the same people leaving multiple comments under different names

      June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • BR

      As soon as people refrain from using their myths to drive public policy...then I'll stop caring.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      talk to someone who has lost a child to the Mormon Church, who has not been invited to their child's wedding nor to their grandkids baptisms. Wake up! Read what ex-Mormons have revealed.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  5. albert

    "belief in sacred texts outside the Bible and practices like posthumous proxy baptism and wearing special undergarments."

    This alone would make them non-Christians.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Carolina

      Thank u albert!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • ManicZorbian

      Based on what? Who has a say in what's in Christ's actual teachings and what isn't?

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

      >"belief in sacred texts outside the Bible"

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

      June 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I thought the Bible said don't change this book. It didn't say anything about adding another book did it?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      the main issue disqualifying Mormonism is their belief that Christ is a created being, not part of a trinity. Thus not qualified to secure our salvation by His sacrificial death.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • JT

      That's ok since there's really no such thing as a True Christian®.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  6. McKay

    I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints about 6 years ago. I taught interested people the basic tenets of our faith. I just want to add some things to this discussion of our beliefs. We believe there was a general apostasy shortly after Christ's ministry and the priesthood authority held by the apostles was lost. This was caused by people disregarding, distorting, and disobeying the apostles teachings. Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet to restore the church of Jesus Christ back on the earth. The original organization was again established with apostles, prophets and priesthood authority. Since Joseph Smith there have been 12 living apostles and a living prophet leading the church. We believe these men receive revelation from God for our benefit. We also believe that individuals can receive personal revelation. The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith as evidence that he was a prophet. It contains teachings of prophets that lived on the American continent from about 600 B.C to 400 A.D. We learn in the Book of Mormon that shortly after Christ's ascension he appeared to the people in America and taught them. The Book of Mormon contains a portion of what he taught. We encourage people to read the book for themselves and pray to know if its true (Moroni 10:3-5). Along with that we believe that a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance of sins, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and keeping the commandments.

    There are a lot of people out there that aim to destroy our beliefs. That is just how these things usually go (Acts 28:22). If you want to know more about what we believe then try attending a church meeting, reading the Book of Mormon, meeting with church missionaries, or reading about us at http://www.mormon.org.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • JeramieH

      > Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet to restore the church of Jesus Christ back on the earth.

      I'm sorry, who claimed this other than Joseph Smith himself?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • albert

      Interesting, You say Mr. Smith was used to restore Christianity. Yet he created a church that is far removed from what Christ taught. Mormon is itself an apostate religion. Wake Up!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • ManicZorbian

      >> Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet to restore the church of Jesus Christ back on the earth.

      >> I'm sorry, who claimed this other than Joseph Smith himself?

      That's my problem with Mormonism – "Joseph Smith said it, so I believe it!" But there's absolutely no supporting evidence that this actually happened.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • ManicZorbian

      Albert, with respect, I don't think any of the churches today have a clue what Christ taught. What do you base your statement on?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • albert

      Funny, if you want to learn more about Mormons, read the book of Mormon NOT THE BIBLE?!? How blinded by Satan you are!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      Why leave out the most crucial part; that Jesus Christ is a created being, there being no triune God. It is revealed in your own statement that keeping the 10 Commandments works into the salvation equation. That is an explicit rejection of the New Covenent. A Christian accepts the grace of God, and the good works are the fruit of this, not part of the salvation equation, and no amount of cherry-picking lines from the New Testament can alter this.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  7. Carolina

    Mormans are not christians.. sorry but its true.

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

      Christians aren't christian. Sorry but it true.

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

      We believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and redeemer, much like other christian religions do.

      http://www.mormon.org

      June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • ManicZorbian

      And Christians aren't Mormons. What's your point?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Oceanside

      There are an estimated 30,000 denominations of xtianity alone. Each could make the same claim about all the others.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Are you sure?

      So the name of the church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Are you sure Mormons aren't Christians?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • David

      From Websters Dictionary

      Definition of CHRISTIAN

      1
      a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

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

      What makes you a Christian? or more of or the authority on Christianity?
      As far as I have read and been taught be those in my Mormon faith, Christ loves and accepts all. He doesn't cast people out when others find fault.
      The focus of the Mormon church is Jesus Christ. If that doesn't make me a Christian than neither are the rest of you claiming to believe in his teachings

      June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  8. dan

    mormonism is a cult. dont let em fool you.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  9. FFJ

    I'm a Mormon, a Christian and a human. But none of that really matters if all I do is bash my brother and make a mock of his beliefs... let them worship how, where, or what they may!

    June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      If Mormons are Christians, then so are Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, and Hindus. They all revere the teachings of Jesus. So Mormons, stand up for your beliefs, and distinguish yourselves boldly and honestly as rejecting the triune nature of God, in portraying Jesus as a created being incapable of winning our salvation.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  10. S. Hackbarth

    There are religions of works (karma) and one religion of grace in the sense written about by Martin Luther. That is, if Christ did not pay the whole price, then are we able to make up the deficit? It makes us feel good, even a bit proud, to earn a bit of our salvation; and it takes a lot of humility to deny that we can undo our errors. All are free to choose what makes sense to them, paying special attention to those who have left the faith and have revealed its abuses, such as alienating youths from their families.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  11. Tim

    I have been a member of the church for 35 yrs, and my lovely wife and I have raised 6 wonderful children with the help of the Lord and the church, which by the way we get constant compliments from teachers about how respectful they are and are a joy to have them in their classes. My point is we are no different than anybody else trying to live their religion. So I would hope that all of us would have the tolerance to live and let live without the hearsay of what others have heard. The real concern here is, would a man like Mitt Romney serve you well as the President of the United States and I can answer we would be foolish not to give him a fair chance to check his record and his accomplishments and his service to our country. Read his book NO APOLOGIES THE CASE FOR AMERICA'S GREATNESS. I can attest to all that there would be a clear seperation of church and state.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Charly Brown

      I bet the angel Moron_i told you to say that... LOL 😉

      June 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      Most religions teach values, and even revere Jesus Christ as a good model. The Mormon community appears to be a closed and secretive one, and claims reverence for Christ, but has no claim to being a Christian religion, perhaps more close to the Unitarian Church beliefs, in that it denies the divinity of Christ, seeing him as a created son of the true God. No shame in that, and devout evangelicals might endorse anyone who promotes their agenda (anti-choice, anti-gay).

      June 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Rob

      What you don't want to mention is the violence that the Mormons inflicted on anyone who entered their territory including the massacre of a group of Germans heading toward Califorian. Not to mention all the Native Americans they chases out of Utah. The biggest problem with Mormanism is that at it's heart it does not believe in separation of church and state. it is merely a cult based on some made up tale about a guy with plates and rose colored glasses who "saw" the Angel Moroni. Just because the cult is large does not make it Christian, which it is definitely not.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Carolina

    What religion makes u wear a certain underwear???? thats WEIRD

    June 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • JAMES DUCKWORTH

      I WEAR NONE I AM A FREE SWINGER

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

      NO religion makes you wear a certain underwear. Questions like this are ridiculous.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • David

      The underwear is not magical, but it is a symbolic reminder to us. Many religions incorporate hats, necklaces, even whole outfit to remind them of their beliefs.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  13. Ancient Curse

    Leaving out a bunch of stuff, aren't we? Do an Internet search for Planet Kolob, Mormon Magic Underwear, Mormon Magic Glasses, Mormon Magic Hat, Jesus in America, on and on... The only thing more hilarious than Mormonism is Scientology, and there's not much of a difference between the two. It's hard to respect someone's beliefs when those beliefs are so unbelievable. No wonder John Huntsman says his religious beliefs aren't that important to him.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Charly Brown

      yeap, According to Mormoms when Jesus disappeared from the eyes of His disciples it wasn't because He was alone praying in a solitary place as the Gospels states them. It was because He was "preaching" in America... Don't you recognize all those indians that were discussing openly, friendly and heartily about Jesus with the Catholic priests that came with the Conquerors in the very first time they crossed words and greetings? Jeez... the ignorance of some people...
      LOL! =)

      June 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Mike0301

      Don't forget the "true" Christians with their talking snakes, fruit from magic trees, Noah, sailing a homemade yacht AND a funky menagerie that may or may not have included dinosaurs. Two versions of the Ten Commandments that they want plastered on the schoolhouse wall (while 90% of the proponents can't explain how the 'graven image' prohibition enhances morality) The New testament hokum, talking donkeys, loaves and fishes feeding hundreds or thousands, wine to water sleight of hand, zombies who are undead, walking or flying around seeing old drinking buddies. Even the kooks who view the book of Revelation as truth (and not psychotic ramblings) are still welcomed into the christian tent.
      Nope, all religions, considered in the light of sanity and objectivity are just as silly and goofy. And the bloody interface, down through the centuries, between one belief system and another would argue for the uselessness of religion in general. One must be truly delusion to embrace any religion.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Laura

      I have been a member of the LDS church since I was baptized at age 8 and have never even heard of magic glasses and magic hats. The sacred undergarments we wear are an outward sign of an inner commitment we make with God much like other religions (burka anyone?). Please stop spreading falsehoods about a religion you clearly don't know the truth about. Why not look for something uplifting to do with your life rather than trying to tear down something that is meaningful to so many people in this life? And only because I've heard it before, if you are an ex-member, I ask the same question of you. Even if you didn't find the religion to be meaningful in your life, why spend time trying to tear down something that is meaningful to others? Here's to hoping you find some meaning in your own life.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Charly Brown

    Do you know that the book of mormon has been edited more times than any other book on the face of the earth? and each time these changes has been made to mitigate or to keep by any means any potential problem that would bring down the main core of beliefs in which everything states on? By the way, each new edition has been made by some kind of vision given to the President of the LDS church which is believing to the the prophet in succession since Joseph Smith declares himself a prophet of God. Do you know Joseph Smith received many revelations and between those he stated that men are to be married to many wives (the youger the better), and that this was a commandment he received directly from God itself in an apparition? What about the special rituals that are performed at the temples and not the the churches which are so similar to the ones performed by the Free Masons? Are they different from pagan rituals nowhere stated in the Bible? How about the Egyptian-style hieroglyphics gold plates? where are they? Is is true the angel Moroni hide them away from preying eyes? How about the ancient indians living before the Conquest of the New World? are they really part of that lost tribe of Israelites that sailed farther than the Vikings to reach these lands? DNA says there is not even a slightly percent of chance indians are related to Israelites or Palestinians or any other ethnic race from that area? How do you answer to that? Why the Mayan-Quiche Bible "The Popol Vuh" doesn't mention not even slightly anything about this? Definitively Mormom beliefs are conformed and twisted in a way that only people who doesn't know the truth believes and follow them. Read the Bible and you'll find what you can't find in any other books. You don't need special garments to protect you just the word of God in the Bible, if Jesus didn't come to accomplish what was written about the prophecies in the Bible then why He said "It is accomplished"? Why do we need a restoration of the Word of God? We need to restore our selves according to His Word and not to restore the Word according to my needs. Got that one Mormons?

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

      > Why do we need a restoration of the Word of God?

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

      June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      Thanks Charly. We need to confront ignorance with such information. Of course, all religions have their mystical elements, and these may seem bizarre in view of the enigmatic nature of existence. But Mormons are most credible when they stand by their odd history and beliefs rather than obscure them with pseudo Jesus-talk.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  15. JJ

    All the Mormons I know are really great people.... and they only have one wife.

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

      I finally found it!!! An honest man!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Laura

      I second that- someone who is honest on this board is refreshing.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      The contrast with Christianity will become quite clear if a Mormon is nominated for president.
      That will be enlightening!
      Laura, why not be explicit about the real distinctions; yes we are concerned about those secretive temples showing up in our neighborhoods.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  16. SDFrankie

    Magical undergarments! You can't make this stuff up!

    June 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • MW

      We don't believe they are magical.They are symbolic to us. We wear them to remind us of things we believe in. People wear symbolic necklaces, hats, entire outfits. What we wear is similar to that.

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

      It says special, not magical...big difference.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  17. radam82

    I don't understand Christianity in general. So, some Cosmic Jewish zombie will grant you immortality after you telepathically pledge your allegiance to him and then symbolically drink his blood and eat his flesh? It's all bonkers.

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

      Religion in general is ridiculous.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  18. Chip

    Paul (speaking on behalf of the Lord) said If I or any other angel speak other then the Gospel you have been presented with now, let that man be accursed.. paraphrased but you get the jist of it.. It was so important to paul; that he spoke it twice. also read Hebrews 1: 1-3 if you need to clarify.

    Joseph Smith claims his writing are from an angel and gold plates etc etc.. I have no problems with Mormons claiming jesus as their savior but for there other scriptures.. foolish unlearned Christian fall for this apostsy and wonder why america is in such a moral mess and the church is leading the charge.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Ian

      Funny you should quote Paul since he and Joseph share a nearly identical experience – Quasi-experience/Vision of Jesus calling them to change the direction of the established church... Paul's dogma was quite different from Peter's – Many religious experts who study the gospels would suggest that Paul was the first contaminator of Christ's teachings.

      So, if you wish to be critical of Joseph Smith, I would do so without quoting Paul. I am sure Thomas Jefferson would have my back on this debate.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • ManicZorbian

      Ian I love your response here – excellent point!

      June 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • S. Hackbarth

      The marriage of Mormons with Evangelicals to secure political power will be enlightening and controversial.
      The validation of Mormonism has to be a top priority for that religious community.

      We all know and respect Mormons, but if you are a Christian, it is unlikely you have one for a friend.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  19. jake

    Mormons are very smart and conniving; so, don't believe the PR spin. Research them. That simple.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Nonimus

      hmmm.... that's just what the anti-mormon world conspiracy wants you to think.

      The tooth is out there.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @jake

      You Said..."Mormons are very smart and conniving; so, don't believe the PR spin. Research them. That simple."

      Ya' know, I've seen that equation used on many a group before... (X) are very (Y) so don't believe them, don't...(Add whatever you wish here).

      You could replace the word 'Mormons' with 'Christians' or 'Republicans' etc... I think you know what I mean, yes...?

      I would suggest that one should be careful when over-generalizing a class or group of individuals.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  20. Nonimus

    "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."
    Wouldn't it be more accurate to say, "...when Joseph Smith published [what he said was] a translation of writings he found and translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English."
    Slight difference but is there any evidence that he actually found anything? Such a shame too... the one thing that lend some credence to a religion, a seemingly impossible artifact – 2000 year old Egyptian hieroglyphs found in upstate NY.

    June 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • JeramieH

      They're in the Ark of the Covenant.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @JeramieH

      Are you being funny...? Or is that something you truly believe...?

      @Nonimus

      Nice distinctions in your questions.

      Peace...

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

      hehe, no, I was being ironical.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @JeramieH

      Thought so 😀

      Peace...

      June 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • R Burns

      There is evidence, supported by a court case in the 19th century, that an associate of Joseph Smith's lifted a novel manuscript from the publisher who was working up Mormon posters and the like. Wasn't long after the manuscript disappeared from the printer's office that the Book of Mormon came forward with nearly identical wording. Any wonder they were run out of one state after the other? Mormonism is a great example of the blind leading the blind. Many of the followers of this faith have no idea what happens at other levels of the church hierarchy, and never attend temple sessions because they are not "eligible" or indoctrinated enough to be introduced to the next story line. I fear for them.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:57 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.