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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. justme

    anyone really interested in the mormon religion should read the book (a true story)by the way,
    (The Mormon Murders by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith), ©1988
    a real good read by the way whether you believe or not.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  2. Jamie

    Check out Mormon.org for a quick overview of the religion

    June 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  3. RobFromSOHo

    My sisters husband is LDS. I think the people bashing the mormons need to meet one before they trash them. They are some of the greatest Christian people I know

    June 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  4. TRH

    Just another silly religion. Religion today is a fantasy...just as belief in Zeus, Odin, ET AL was centuries ago. Those who truly learn, think, research and posses common sense know this. Read something other than the bible, torah, or koran and keep an open mind...if you dare.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Blake

      As opposed to religion being real in the past? I'm confused by your statement.

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

      Here's a suggestion, how about you keep an open mind and allow others to believe differently than you without you bashing them? Being open minded goes both ways, my friend.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  5. Brian

    I'd be happy to get my information about Mormonism from as Mormon. The problem is finding a Mormon who knows enough about Mormon history and the evolution of its doctrine to give an accurate response. Mormons I've met know only the whitewashed, cleaned up version filtered through church pr.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Johnny

      Read stuff wrong Grant Palmer... although he got "disfellowshipped" because he wrote the truth about Mormon history

      June 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Artist

      This might explain the lack of response regarding history of Joseph. The details is in the pudding, not biased fluff. Look closely at the founder and you will see the light

      June 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • pity

      Seems you're not looking for more information then, just someone who agrees with you.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Mason

      So are you saying that because the Mormons you have met don't meet your standard for historical knowledge about their own religion, they didn't have a valid take on their faith? I would suggest that we could learn a lot from a member of any faith, ideology, ethnicity, race, and social class, if we allowed them the legitimacy of sincere human experience. Although study of church history is encouraged in the LDS Church, the primary way of coming to know the faith for a Mormon is through meditation, prayer, and deeply personal experiences with the Spirit of God. To understand another's experience of God it helps to attempt to understand it on their terms. Thank you for your curiosity.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  6. HolyCollar

    Love them. The mormons are more American than my entire baptist congregation. and i would know, im the preacher

    June 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  7. Chris Richardson

    These are ten facts that are so condensed that they almost don't make sense. If you really want to know what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes, I would suggest you go to "the horse's mouth." Ask a Mormon what they are about – they aren't too hard to find. Or visit the church's website – lds.org. You may find out that we are not a cult and we are not polygamists. We believe in Jesus Christ, first and foremost. We also believe that families can work hard serving others and, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, return to heaven to live with Heavenly Father after our experience here on Earth is finished.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  8. Joseph Smith

    I just had a revelation, God told me he changed his mind and does't like Mormons....

    June 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • God

      I never knew you, and stop using my prophet's name.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Blake

      HAHAHA, nice one!

      June 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  9. Marty

    In response to Ian who said "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."

    You may be able to find some similarities between the two, but you forget a critical aspect: Paul's teachings were confirmed and accepted by the Church. Paul worked in conjunction with, and with the approval of, the Church, including Peter. The differences they had in their teaching was more in regards to the scope of who should be reached (Peter: Jews, Paul: Everyone). This differences were discussed and an agreement reached.

    Also, a critical difference between Paul and john Smith. While Paul did make a change of course for the Christian church, this change happened when it could be discussed with and confirmed by people who were alive during Christ's life and activity. John Smith declared his apostleship 1800 years later, and his declaration was NOT confirmed.

    I put much more validity on the statements from an Apostle who can be confirmed by those who walked with and were touched by Jesus himself than on a man who declares himself an apostle 1800 years later, and is NOT confirmed by his followers.

    So I am sorry, Ian, but I do not think that your point is valid, either.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  10. Pat

    I worked for a Mormon for 2 years and he was a complete nutjob. I would never work for another one, would never vote for one, would not want to live next to one.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Pat's Boss

      Just because someone claims to be a "mormon" doesn't mean they are a good one. I hate to hear how you feel about Jews, or Muslims. I suppose they're all the same to you, too?

      June 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • cs

      So, I knew a white male once who was a nut job. Does that mean that I should never associate with one again? Nice generalization.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  11. Manny

    My neighbor is a mormon and one of the finest americans and christians i know:)

    June 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  12. jim n

    the problem with mormons isnt there beliefs its there control over utah goverment believe what you want good for you but a mormon cant be president or youll all have the silly laws we do in utah and you will be controlled by there church they want to push there beliefs and morals on you through law that isw there plan

    June 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Blake

      Since when does the president make laws? Maybe I am a little rusty on my government knowledge but last I heard it was the duty of congress to make laws. Hmm, have things changed that much since I was in school?

      June 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Aaron

      Want evidence of this Mormon conspiracy? Just look at Massachusetts, which transformed from a liberal haven into a conservative LDS theocracy during Mitt Romney's governorship.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Blake

      That has no connection to my statement. The president makes no laws so how would a LDS president make everyone follow his faith? (And if you understood his beliefs, you would know that he wouldn't)

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

      Psst, Blake, I think Aaron was being sarcastic to illustrate the absurdity of the one guy's claim about what a President would do if he were mormon.

      June 27, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  13. puzzled

    "when Joseph Smith published a translation of writings he said he found and translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English."

    So why follow these writings, and not the Torah, Bible, Koran or The Gospel according to the Flying Spaghetti Monster ? What makes either any more believable, accurate or trustworthy than the other ? It seems there could have been 100% proof of authenticity if only the Golden Plates had remained in existence, and we'd all already be Mormons rather than just ignoring them when they ring the doorbell.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  14. James

    And as to the anthology called the Bible, it was detirmined and collected and coalated and modified during the middle ages, before then the "Bible" was a collections of scripture that varied in content. Even after that the Catholic and the Protestant "Bibles" vary in the number of books. There are a few books that were collected and are called the Apacrypha which are books that for varying reasons were not selected to be in the Bible as it is known today

    June 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Chris

    It's funny reading one person from one religion cut down the beliefs of another in these comments. I mean come on, all religions believe in ridiculous stories. How can you believe any of the bs, look at the source of the stories, some kings or guys who were alive 1000 years ago??? I have read fairytales that are more believable. Would you want any of these dark age fools to operate on you?

    June 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  16. bbrooker

    "wearing special undergarments".... WHAT??? I guess no different from other religious clothing requirements but goodness gracious!! I can tell you if a god is upset at me because my underwear isn't just right, then it's no god worth worshiping.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • funkylovemonkey

      It's really not all that different then strict adherents to the Jewish faith wearing the tallit and tzitzit, it performs basically the same function as a reminder of God's will and commandments and covenants made. BTW, a lot of people will say that Mormon's believe that it will magically protect them. This is a misunderstanding. Mormon's believe that they are protected from sin by obeying and keeping the commandments and covenants of God as represented by the garment, but Mormon's don't believe it has magical properties to say stop bullets. That's a misrepresentation made by people trying to make fun of the practice.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  17. Harry

    Mormonism explained: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAgrJI5SV30

    Creepy isn't it?

    June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • funkylovemonkey

      Of course it has very little to do with actual Mormon belief. Lots of misinformation there.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  18. jennymerrit

    I dated a mormon all through high school out in California. We are separated now but I love their people and their devotion to Christ. Really neat people

    June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  19. parkerWal

    My neighbor is a mormon and i believe the bishop of their congregation. he is a class act guy. love their people and their example of Christianity

    June 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  20. jake

    Love the mormon people as well. great examples in community and as Christians

    June 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Steve

      Folks, Mormons really have drifted far enough away from orthodox Christianity that it's not correct to refer to them as Christians. I don't mean that as a slur since many fine people are not in any sense Christians, but their beliefs are simply too far removed from Christian dogma or doctrine to consider them Christians. They really have become a new religion with a unique and very interesting set of beliefs. I've known many of them and most of them are wonderful folks although too conservative on social issues for my taste, but they are no more Christian than my Jewish neighbors are.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Laura

      Dear Steve, I'm LDS (aka Mormon) and Christian through and through. Just because my Christian beliefs differ from other churches Christian beliefs, it doesn't mean I don't believe that Christ is the literal Son of God. Please don't try and tell me what I believe. Thanks and have a great day.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Steve

      @Laura – Laura, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not considered to be "Christian" by any other group that considers itself Christian. Your church simply differs on too many points from orthodox Christianity. To address the single point that you mentioned: Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God. They believe that He was the _only_ son of God. Mormons believe that you, I, Satan, and all the other folks that have ever lived on Earth are the sons of God – the God of this world, and that all good Mormons will eventually evolve to the state of being "gods". This is simply not Christian dogma or doctrine. You may call yourself a Christian if you wish, but it will be as false as if I claimed to be a Jew because I believe that the Jews are the chosen people of God.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Steve, the Bible repeatedly refers to God as our spiritual Father. In that sense, mormons agree with the Bible and believe that we are God's children in spirit. We believe, as Christ Himself claimed, that Jesus was the literal, physical, biological Son of God, and that He was a perfect man, born of a Virgin. We believe that only He, a perfect, sinless being, could have performed the infinite atonement needed to overcome and pay for all of our sins. Christ is God the Son, just as our Heavenly Father is God the Father.

      We believe that God is our Heavenly Father, but that Christ was His Only Begotten Son on Earth. The rest of us (save Adam and Eve, who were created literally or metaphorically as depicted in Genesis) were physically born of earthly parents. Our spirits, however, are God's children in spirit. This is supported pretty well in both the Old and New Testaments.

      June 27, 2011 at 5:25 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.