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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. Ammon

    spr has many aliases on this blog. Too bad one or two ruin it for the rest of us.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  2. Libby

    In the 70's someone painted "Surrender Dorothy" on the overpass on 495 over looking the Tabernacle in Maryland. The Tabernacle does look a little like the Emerald City, except it isn't green.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  3. sean cruz

    As the father of four children who disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction, I have a strong feelings about the cult....

    The State of Oregon passed an anti-kidnapping bill (Senate Bill 1041, Aaron's Law, named for my late son Aaron Cruz) in 2005, based on this experience, the Mormon abduction, and the failures of both the criminal and family law systems to protect my children despite an order for joint custody.

    If you have the miserably bad fortune to have a son or daughter marry into the church, say good bye to your plans to attend your own child's wedding(s). And that is just the beginning. Once they've conned your child into choosing Mormon culture over their own family, they have established a hold that is very difficult to break, so say goodbye to the relationship you thought you would have with your own grandchild(ren).

    That is how the Mormons roll....

    June 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Brian

      Ah, I did some research, and found quite a few blogs, I assume written by the father. I feel for his loss, but I also think he is using Mormons as a scapegoat. For example, on one blog he writes:

      My son Aaron died in Utah of medical neglect while under Army orders.
      He apparently received no medical care for his seizure disorder after he left our home in Portland, under deployment orders for Iraq, to report to his Utah Army National Guard unit.
      Two years after his death, the Department of Defense has still not complied with my request for my son's medical records, citing a "large backlog of requests."

      http://blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com/2007/05/in-memory-of-aaron-cruz-march-21-1982.html

      So, now i am just confused.

      June 25, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  4. spr

    spr is either an excommunicated mormon or an anti or both. Too much hate spewing forth from his fingertips

    June 24, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  5. Peter Grasso and SPR Wasting time

    To the fellas who have been sitting on this comment page for half the day: Please let others worship how and what they may. Nobody cares about what you think. I'm not even mormon and I'm offended reading the ridiculous posts you've plagued this thing with. Get a life and learn to be Christian yourselves. If the mormons believe in something then let them believe that way. I don't see them going after all your beliefs and saying you are wrong. It is amazing that you guys spend so much time trying to debate this. ITS A FREAKING BELIEF! THAT MEANS SOMEONE FEELS IT IN THEIR HEART! YOU CANT CHANGE THAT SO PLEASE STOP BOTHERING EVERYONE ON HERE

    June 24, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Amen

      amen to that. Hate comes from one source and one source only.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  6. Marie Kidman

    _
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]

    June 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  7. AZ

    Your hearts have waxed cold, and you let anger rule your tongue

    June 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  8. TJeff1776

    The herein story by Peter Grasso is loaded with falsehoods designed no doubt to create predudice. Denies the virgin birth is totally false. Not Chirtianity- what is the very name of the church anyway ???? Dark hair means wickedness. His outline is filled with crazy doctrine completely unknown by me. I have this truism to offer- IF one is studying Baptist, then go to a Baptist.....if Catholic, then to a Catholic; BUT never to a non-Mormon like Mr. Gasso because people like him will lead you astray every time and will ever add untrue stuff. One has to wonder why.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  9. Beth

    In #6. They left out Kirtland, Ohio. Great article.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  10. Greg

    Well done CNN! This is factually accurate except for the statement that Joseph Smith was led to a "pair" of golden plates. According to his description there many leaves (pages) as described by the witnesses (http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/introduction).
    Sincere seekers of truth can only find out for themselves and cannot rely wholly on the descriptions of others. I would encourage all to study the Book of Mormon for themselves and do as it directs, namely pray to find out for yourself if it is true.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  11. Joseph

    I'm a Mormon. Reading these comments is hilarious. I think the author of the article must have done a fairly good job at being objective, since many Mormons are ticked that he didn't include all the good things, and many not-pro-Mormons are ticked that he didn't include enough of the bad things!

    Lds.org and Mormon.org and your Mormon neighbors are good places to start if you want to learn more about the LDS Church. We don't have a perfect past, but not many religious or non-religious traditions do. Take what we say with a grain of salt, though, because we really do think what we're saying is good and true, so we paint things in a positive light – even the weird, sometimes unsavory parts of our faith and/or history.

    When learning about something new, it's always good to hear differing opinions on things, so Anti-Mormon sites or people who are ex-Mormons can also be a good place to find out about why people have negative feelings about the LDS church. Take what they say with a grain of salt, though, as they really do think that what we believe is false and wrong and even evil, so they are going to paint things in a negative light – even the good, true, and even beautiful things about us.

    Love and peace to all. – Joseph

    June 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      In your opinion, is it anti-Mormon to point out that Mormons don't practice Christianity? I know a great many Mormons and they are, for the majority, very nice people with good intentions, who treat others nicely.

      That doesn't make them Christians though.

      Why is it so important for Mormons to be considered Christians?

      June 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • jaredstark

      @Nic_Driver why is it so important to Christians that Mormons NOT be considered Christian? Mormons worship Jesus Christ, simple as that.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      Because the tenants of the Mormon faith are at odds with the tenants of Christianity.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  12. Tyler

    In the matter of religious beliefs, I appreciate anyone who can read/listen with respect and comment with a well-informed perspective, two of the most important elements missing from a lot of the comments on this article. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I enjoy learning from people of other faiths. I've enjoyed reading from Lao Tzu, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and other books, and I've had many helpful conversations in learning from others what they believe. For this reason, I find it helpful to be well-informed, and I encourage anyone reading here to visit mormon.org, open up the Book of Mormon and read a few chapters and pray for understanding, or visit a nearby meetinghouse for Sunday services. I have read the Book of Mormon, and I know for myself that it is true. Thank you to those who are respectful and who comment with accurate information.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • spr

      @tyler

      1. why continue to believe native americans were decendants of jews?
      2. do you believe that god used to be a man?
      3. how many gods are there?
      4. do you believe in sons of perdiciion ?
      5. do you wear those 1800's pantaloons, you know that sacred underwear?

      June 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  13. gmccyclist

    Mormons are not christians, and including the name of Jesus Christ in their official church name doesn't automatically make them christians. To be a christian, you will believe in the trinity and base your beliefs on the old and new testaments of the bible. In the new testament Christ warns of the false prophets that will follow him. Mohammad and Joseph Smith come to mind as the self declared prophets of their times. Neither the Book of Mormon or the Koran are from god, but manifestations of these two so-called prophets. Mormonism is a cult with some positive family and community values.

    The reason that 20% of us would never vote for a Mormon President is very simple. A mormon president would blindly draw additional followers to this cult. Once they drink the kool-aid, many will be hooked and will start calling for Mormon law which is no better than Sharia Law with the muslims. Haven't heard of Mormon law? Move to the state of Utah that is run as close to a theocracy as one could imagine to see for yourself.

    The Mormon church is also economically powerful with all of their assets and investment. Think about it. All good Mormons must give 10% of their income to the church. That money is centrally collected and administered from Salt Lake. You don't have to pay for a clergy outside the top church leadership and you don't even pay for the missions the young members go on, who then go by the name Elder. The LDS church has wealth surpassing most countries in the world.

    Actually, there wouldn't be much of a Mormon church today if it hadn't been a slight diversion called the American Civil War. Shortly before the Civil War, a wagon train from Arkansas was attacked at Mountain Meadows in the Utah territory. Through lies and stealth, Mormon massacred every adult and every child above the age of 6 I believe. Such an attack could not have been conducted without the permission and blessing of Brigham Young. Before the federal government could address this huge crime against humanity, the civil war broke out and the focus and media shifted away from this tradgedy and Brigham Young and the leadership dodged a bullet or noose with just one senior Mormon leader taking the fall. Had Brigham Young and the leadership of the Mormon church faced the music at the time for this crime, the church would have been cut off at its knees and Mormonism permanently connected to the genocide of Mountain Meadows.

    Sure most Mormons you encounter are good citizens with strong and positive family values and almost robotic in behavior. They are just slaves to a cult that considers only Mormons as the ones who will be saved.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Halee

      Can you explain the trinity?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  14. Eric

    I live out West with a good amount of Mormons and one used to live next door to me. They were nice nor people who were always willing to help out and their kids used to come over and play with my kids. Sure, it is annoying when those missionaries are knocking on my door and the majority of the time I tell my family to just not answer. It is not like I answer the door for not only the Mormons but the Jehovah's and other religiously types as my family is comfortable in our non-denominational faith. The way I look at it is if you don't want to be a Mormon then nobody is forcing you to be one. I don't think the people ranting on here is going change any of their minds and vice versa. Freedom to pick any religion is your given right in this country. Worry about your own life and salvation however you see fit.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  15. James

    Tolerance and acceptance needs to go both ways. If you want your opinions heard and respected, you should do the same in return. Hypocrisy is unattractive and extremism by believers and atheists takes us all backwards. Narcissistically dehumanizing others because they do not believe the way you do is weak and just makes people think that they have the excuse to treat others anyway they want because they are right and thus, superior. Respect for all or respect for none. I have baptist, atheist, and mormon friends and I would never speak to them the way that many of you speak anonymously in this forum.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      Acceptance is different than tolerance and I accept Mormons as people but can't tolerate dishonesty. Mormons are dishonest when they claim to follow the tenants of the Christian faith. I would have much greater respect for them if they were simply honest about it.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • I'maMormon

      Nic_Driver: If you pull any two Christians of different demoninations out of a crowd they will not agree on every point of doctrine. Who is to say which is the truer Christian? Not me. I don't think you can decide who is or is not Christian based on whether or not they believe what you believe is the true doctrine. True, there are some doctrines which are more fundamental than others, but even these vary within dominations. Also, what is considered orthodox Christianity has changed over the years. Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has discussed some of these doctrines. See http://lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/the-only-true-god-and-jesus-christ-whom-he-hath-sent?lang=eng&query=jeffrey+r.+holland and http://lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng&query=jeffrey+r.+holland

      June 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      "If you pull any two Christians of different demoninations out of a crowd they will not agree on every point of doctrine."

      Yes but in your example you're starting with two Christians. The very tenants of Christianity are at odds with the Mormon faith, do you see the difference?

      Why is it so important for Mormons to be classified as Christians? They are Mormons, or LDS whichever but not Christians, sorry.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Steve

      @I'maMormon – 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. For example – Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God. They believe that He was the _only_ son of God. Mormons believe that Jesus, you, I, Satan, and all the other folks that have ever lived on Earth are also the sons of God – the God of this world, and that all good Mormons will eventually evolve to the state of being "gods" of their own little worlds which they will populate with their “spirit children”. 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. They would agree with me, but it just isn't enough to make me a Jew by anyone's standards.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  16. J

    Okay, the Mormon religion has some real strange and unbelievable stuff in it, in my opinion. Of course, in my opinion, you are going to have trouble coming up with a religion that does not. I will tell you one thing, I have never met a practicing Mormon who was a hypocrite. I have seen a lot of church going 'regular" christians with a personal moral code so messed up a crack addict would be shaking their head in disbelief. I have met non practicing Mormons who have acted poorly, actually roomed with one. But of those who are following their faith, i would trust them with my life. Very honorable folks.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • spr

      you must have about 10 to 15 different posts that you are using. seriously no one is fooled. you are obviously the same person making 80% of these posts.

      It sucks being the only one in here that is mormon, i know, it must suck, but try this, come back, if these truths we profess of your wackiness aren't truths, then say so, rebut our arguements, refute our evidence.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  17. I'maMormon

    I appreciate this fair representation of LDS beliefs and history. There is, however, much more to know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To really know what Mormons believe, ask a practicing Mormon. Visit mormon.org

    June 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  18. Peter Grasso

    Mormon is NOT Christianity in Doctrine nor in Practice... The following is what CNN fails to disclose about this cult belief system.

    1) In 1830, Joseph Smith published his own scripture, the "Book of Mormon", which he allegedly translated from sacred golden plates or tablets - supposedly from an angel called Moroni (in 1823). The "Book of Mormon" is a poor attempt by Joseph Smith to correct Christianity, based on an alleged form of "Egyptian Hieroglyphics". The book is full of historical inaccuracies (such as references to horse in North America prior to A.D. 400), and the origins of Native Americans, which DNA studies conclude are from northeast Asian decent and not Jewish.

    2) There are a number of heretical teachings such Jesus being the half-brother of Satan; thus implying that God the Father of a duality nature of both Good and Evil. And, assigned a level of deity to Satan by placing him on the level of God. They also believe that the triune God (Father,Son, Holy Spirit) was once man.

    3) In Utah, Brigham Young introduced the controversial "Adam God doctrine", which he preached from the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City that the first man, Adam "is our father and god and the only god with whom we have to do" ( Journal of Discourses, vol. I, p. 50).

    4) This belief denies the Virgin birth ( a key Doctrine of Christianity). Joseph Smith taught that God, our "Heavenly Father," is married to "Heavenly Mother" through procreation to produce "Spiritual Children", who lived with them in the pre-existance near a huge star called Kolob (Abraham 3:3, Pearl of Great Price).

    5) The church of LDS originally taught that those who had dark skin, were so because they were wicked, and 2 Nephi 30:6 stated that those who repented turned "white with delightsome." Current editions of the Book of Mormon read "pure and delightsome", with no reference to a change in skin color. Basically, the god of the Mormon changes his mind often throughout history.

    6) They believe also that faithful Mormons and their spouses will achieve the state of godhood and become heavenly Fathers and Mothers of new earth. They believe that "As man is, God one was, as God is, Man may become". Therefore, they believe in salvation by progress (works) and not by Faith through Grace.

    Regardless, to our media's position on Mormonism, they do not hold to the core tenants of "Christianity" and therefore are a cult.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • I'maMormon

      I am a Mormon and most certainly believe in Salvation by grace. In fact, the topic in sacrament meeting (our Sunday worship services) last week was just that: grace. We believe that it is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we can be saved and there is no other way. The Book of Mormon plainly teaches that fact. We believe that His grace is available to all who exercise faith in Him. Our works will not save us, yet God requires us to keep His commandments and follow His teachings. These actions do not help us "earn" salvation, rather, they help us be better prepared to receive the gift of grace that the Lord wants to give us.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tay Tay

      Well said, Peter!

      June 25, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Manifold Density

      Christianity is also a cult. They spun off from Judaism and follow a delusional cult leader who wrote nothing down but every word was later made up to put a "proper" spin on things.
      Mormons are a wannabe-jew cult. They constantly point to amazing similarities, like their "special" underwear is like a Jewish prayer shawl, they call non-Mormons "Gentiles", they call their churches "temples", and so on and so on.
      But they do some Catholic stuff, too.
      Just a made-up bunch of hogwash. The details don't matter. Hogwash is hogwash.

      June 25, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  19. spr

    Mormons believe there is a local god over this planet (sort of like local/state/federal gov't) that they worship too (polytheism). Mormons all intend to be gods themselves some day, and are helping to earn their exaltation to godhood by going door to door and talking to people and converting them. Each mormon intends to have many wives in heaven, carrying on multiple ss e x relations throughout eternity, until they have enough children to populate their own earth, so they can be "Heavenly Father" over their own planet. – TRUE

    so are women mormons excluded from becoming a god themselves right? I heard they only receive salvation from their husbands. So ijust the men eventually become a god of their own earth. Christians usually have a problem with mormons suggesting that God was a man at one point who who went to heaven from his original planet (LOL) and had lots of spirit seex. enough spirt seex to colonize earth and become heavenly father. The whole polygamist thing... The whole MULTIPLE GODS thing... that is why christians don't group mormons in with themselves.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • I'maMormon

      This isn't an accurate representation of LDS beliefs. We do believe that a woman cannot be fully exalted without a husband, but neither can a man without a wife. Just like it says in the Bible, "Nevertheless neither is the aman without the woman, neither the bwoman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Cor 11:11)

      As for becoming Gods, we believe that God is our Heavenly Father, and as all loving parents, wants His children to enjoy all the blessings that He enjoys. We believe, as the Bible says, that we are "joint heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17)

      June 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  20. Nic_Driver

    Mormons are good people but clearly differ from Christianity in many major ways. It's improper to refer to them as Christians because of these differences.

    "As man is god once was, as god is man will one day become" is a Mormon slogan and a slap in the face of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
    .

    June 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • sundevil98

      Nic,

      A Christian is someone that believes in Jesus Christ. It's as simple as that.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      sundevil98, Someone who believes that a man named Jesus lived or belief that the Son of God died for your sins and that is the only way to heaven?

      Which do you believe is a Christian?

      June 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • I'maMormon

      That is strong language you use, showing that you have strong beliefs. I appreciate those beliefs. I too have a strong belief in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

      Why is it a slap in His face? I think it makes His sacrifice all the more awesome to think that He gave His all in order to give us the opportunity to receive all He has.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
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About this blog

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.