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. knobe

    Interesting that #2 SKIPS the biggest difference between Christians and Mormons > The basic deity !
    The Judeo – Christian diety ( god of Abraham ) is the ONLY god in the universe and is Infinite in time , space & power .
    The Mormon god was once a man and Mormons who follow the rules get to be a god in the afterlife and populate their own planets with god children .

    Soooooooo ,
    Christians are Mono theistic and Mormons are Poly theistic ( FAR more significant than proxy baptism )

    Interesting how the media is tooooo theologically challenged to know these basics .

    June 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Dandini

      knobe, you should study ancient history a little more. Most historians who have studied the Hebrews, knew they were very polytheistic. But despite the obvious that you don't read the Bible well enough to know that it is filled with polytheistic mentionings in the OT and NT, study what the LDS really believe by going to http://www.lds.org and/or http://www.mormon.org

      June 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Why every body talks about under wears worn by Mormons ? Are they the only Americans wearing under wears or what?

    June 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  3. Marie Kidman


    June 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  4. Evergreen7

    Here is why we don't like Mormons calling themselves Christians:
    As Christians, we believe different things than the LDS doctrine (we differ on posthumous baptism, the nature of Jesus Christ [he is not our brother, but our father], and the ability to "live in Paradise" after death – not in Hell – if you are not a believer). These things are different enough that if you belive the LDS version, a Christian would consider you to be wrong; therefore, you would not have access to a second life in Paradise, but a second death in the "hot place".
    We want as many people as possible to believe what we consider true. Paradise: the more the merrier!
    Take this how you take it, grain of salt or straight up (on the rocks?).
    add: I also think this is true about most sects of "Christianity". I believe the problem to be following the church instead of the truth.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Dandini

      Evergreen, I was raised Lutheran (Missouri Synod). I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an adult. I studied the large amounts of anti-mormon materials made available by my family before and after joining. Yet, the things you mention as not being consistant with "Christians", have Biblical scriptures tied to them, and I have often found that LDS doctrine is often more supportive of and supported by the Biblical scriptures than many others who claim to be Christian!

      June 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • skytag

      "Here is why we don't like Mormons calling themselves Christians"

      This is really arrogant. Who made you the arbiter of what deserves to be called a Christian religion? Where's your proof that your view is more correct than theirs? Oh, right. You don't have any. Maybe you should spend less time worrying about what Mormons call themselves and more working on being a better Christian.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Evergreen7

      @Dandini: I've done the research too. I cannot find anywhere in the bible that the dead can be baptized and enter Paradise. I also see no reference to God being an "elevated man" except in the Book of Mormon (or was it in the Doctrines, or the Pearl?). Please enlighten me if you have proof contrary.
      @Skytag: I do apologize if I came off as arrogant. What I guess I meant to say was, "Here is why I don't like using the blanket term 'Christian' to define any religion that recognizes Jesus." Anymore I hardly call myself Christian. Just because of the negative implications (the leaders of the KKK also call themselves such).
      I simply believe that Christ is truth and freedom. I feel the obligation to share this; I wouldn't want anybody left out.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Brian

      1 Peter 18-20

      18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
      19By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
      20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

      Here's some more for you to study at your leisure:

      as prisoners are gathered in the pit, Isa. 24:22
      thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth, Isa. 49:9
      opening of the prison to them that are bound, Isa. 61:1
      preach deliverance to the captives, Luke 4:18
      dead shall hear … the Son, John 5:25
      preached unto the spirits in prison, 1 Pet. 3:19
      gospel preached also to them that are dead, 1 Pet. 4:6

      Given this evidence, it only makes sense that baptism for the dead was part of the early church, and Paul even uses the practice as evidence of the resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:29). Scholars agree that the practice existed at the time.

      June 24, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Evergreen7

      @Brian: You do know that these scriptures refer to a figurative (spiritual) death, right? Go back a few verses from 1 Peter 4:6 and see that it speaks of "[living] in the flesh" as opposed to "[living] in the spirit". It also never says anything about redemption after physical death, only judgment. smar-a$$ (arrogant?) comment: it helps to read the whole reference.

      June 25, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Jason

      who made you the authority?

      June 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  5. John Richardson

    I think the problems the Mormons have is that it seems to be a law of credulity that ludicrous stories are believable (by a certain segment of the population) in proportion to how long ago they are said to have happened. I'm sure there are people who doubt the reality of the moon landings who think Moses really did part the Red Sea.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  6. Johnny

    Can someone explain why the Book of Mormon (started around 600 BC) contains part of Isaiah that were written (chapters 48-52) long after 600 B.C. after they left Jerusalem in a boat and sailed to America? How did they get those writings?

    June 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tom

      Because the book was written in the 1800's.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Floyd Johnson

      It looks like your Book of Mormon timeline is netter than your Old Testament timeline. Isaiah was a prophet 740-701 B.C. Wikipedia actually have some of the writings of Isaiah pre-dating Isaiah himself. Looks like Mormons are ok on this point.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Jason

      Isaiah chapter 6 – early in Isaiah's career, was In the year that Uzziah died, 739 B.C long before 600B.C. This isn't rocket science. Ever think that in 600 B.C. they may have had all of Isaiah's writings? Hmmmmmmm

      June 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  7. Tom

    Joseph Smith ran for president, had many wives, started his own banks, started his own towns, etc. Sounds like someone was on a power trip!

    June 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Dandini

      Very simple comment, yet very uneducated. If you want to know more, try studying what the LDS have to say... http://www.lds.or and/or http://www.mormon.org

      June 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Tom

      Everything I wrote is true, please educate yourself instead of immediately doubting it. Here is info from your own website, although they try to change the story http://lds.org/ensign/2009/02/joseph-smith-campaign-for-president-of-the-united-states?lang=eng&noLang=true&path=/ensign/2009/02/joseph-smith-campaign-for-president-of-the-united-states

      June 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • skytag

      Sounds like someone is a religious bigot with nothing intelligent to say.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Floyd Johnson

      Sounds like David from the Old Testament doesn't he.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Brian

      Sounds more like a frontiers man. I can't believe how ignorant people are of basic history.

      June 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  8. Curt

    Is America not founded on religious freedom, tolerance, and respect for others? Yes, I am Mormon, and proud of it? I vaule all human beings and appreciate the diversity they represent. The Mormon Church centers on the central themes of love of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and love for our neighbors. Does this make us a cult? For those who think we are, I would invite you to attend one of our worship services and learn a bit about the doctrine. You would be amazed at how you would be welcomed and accepted as friends, regardless of your religious beliefs. We, as Mormons, are not perfect. No one is. We do, however, have a strong desire to be kind to others, and to join with others from all walks of life to help make this world a better place. It is my hope that we will not exercise undeserved judgement against others. If we could love and accept each other, despite our differences, think what a wonderful world this would be!

    June 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Tom

      Its hard to love mormons when they skew all of the Utah politics towards their unusual beliefs. For instance what is up with me having to go to a state liquor store? Why can't I get it from the grocery store like everywhere else? Why is beer half of the alcohol content in Utah?
      Please don't act like mormons dont judge. There is so much relief society gossip that it is insane. When I didn't go on a mission I was pestered by the mormon church consistently, and looked down upon from the members of the church I knew. "Really you aren't going on a mission, are you serious?". All mormons care about is trying to look like they are more spiritually in touch than their peers.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  9. thes33k3r

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not pleased with the LDS church. How do I know? He sent an angel-hair pasta to me who told me where to find two tablets buried in my back yard with said information. You don't believe me? How can you not believe when I have told you myself?

    June 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • john

      you have found freedom from religion and spend your newfound time on religious site. thats pretty messed up. ha ha!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @john Ah, c'mon. Coming here to watch the churchies sputter and fume is more fun than watching the monkeys at the zoo, and much more humane.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  10. Generational

    Ironic that a nation which was created based on those seeking religious freedom (among other liberties) rather than accepting a religion founded here would prefer to shun, oversimplify, stigmatize, joke about and persecute it. Much easier to keep ones head in a hole and label anyone not of your belief to be wrong without getting any viable and credible information prior to judgment.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  11. I'm a Mormon Too

    And proud of it. Spit on me, kick me, tell me i'm not Christian, cult member, weirdo, fanatic, crazy, whatever... I will endure it all. Life's too short and we all have a lot to learn before we're 6 foot under.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Evergreen7

      Or before we're elevated to godhood, and put in charge of our own planet?

      June 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  12. TJeff1776

    Its really amazing to me how so many people herein state things AS FACT obviously without knowledge about it. For example- here is a FACT about Romney's underwear. There's nothing magic OR intended to be magic about it. Its simply designed to cause the wearer to remember to be true to his beliefs; that is, don't smoke, don't drink alcohol, don't use the name of the Lord Jesus Christ or God in vein, help your neighbor- member or not, etc etc etc. THATS IT and nothing more.
    There's literally NOTHING intended or understood beyond that- one wears simply as a reminder to live righteously. I fail to see any harm in reminding members of the above; after all, it sure helps to be reminded of things with so much temptation going on all around us. Does this explain anything of value ??? Well, not to those bent on spreading falsehoods.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Johnny

      You forget to note that it is underwear with masonic type symbols that are associated with promises to do whatever (even giving up your life) it takes to build up or sustain the kingdom of God. Not sure if I like a President of the US to have made some of these promises...

      June 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  13. Jans

    1 guy, 50 allieses, spewing hate on this otherwise informative topic. CNN, can you please ban the individual who keeps stirring the pot. I appreciate your take CNN into the Mormon religion. Very informative. Many of the hateful comments were not!

    June 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  14. Nic_Driver

    It's way to convenient to change the long standing practice of segregation against blacks until 1978, when the Mormon church would have lost their tax status.

    Poof, just like that black skin is no longer the mark of Cain!!

    Yep, that's right, they practiced bigotry until 1978.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Tyler - In Texas

      Seriously, leave the Mormons alone. They do more "Christian" charity and work than most "Christian" churches. Ignorance is very unbecoming of real "Christians." I don't remember reading anywhere in your "Christian" bible that says to go around and spew hate and false information about your fellow brothers. Jesus, according to my study, was kind, gentle and lead by example.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River


      June 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • BibleReader

      Would you call Peter a bigot for not taking the gospel to the gentiles before he received his revelation? Would you call Moses prejudiced because he only let the levites hold the priesthood? It is a biblical pattern that God makes blessings available to one group at a time, but it doesn't mean that one group is more privileged than the other.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • JJ

      Mormons also don't believe that Jesus is the son of God.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Yes, Peter was a bigot. Moses is a more complicated case.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Mcj

      We believe in God the Eternal Father and in his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost

      June 24, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Floyd Johnson

      JJ – No. Mormons do in fact believe that Jesus is the son of God. Stop getting your facts about mormonism from people who know nothing about it.

      June 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  15. FACT

    Were's the love people? I thought Christian's were supposed to love, not hate. The only people on here professing Christ are the Mormons trying to defend their beliefs! Interesting! Everyone else seems to have forgotten the golden rule.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Nic_Driver

      Defending Christianity against false prophets is the appropriate action for Christians. Perhaps it can be toned down a bit but we as Christians are called to protect the weak against those who would deceive them.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Artist

      Christian??? please do not insult me. J/K. hey like well you know what we all have one...opinions 🙂

      June 24, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  16. Muneef

    As it seems too much Secularism and Atheism freedoms has corrupted the life and the livings on the planet earth;  

    [2:204] Among the people, one may impress you with his utterances concerning this life, and may even call upon GOD to witness his innermost thoughts, while he is a most ardent opponent.

    [2:205] As soon as he leaves, he roams the earth corruptingly, destroying properties and lives. GOD does not love corruption.

    [26:151] "Do not obey the transgressors.

    [26:152] "Who commit evil, not good works."

    [28:83] We reserve the abode of the Hereafter for those who do not seek exaltation on earth, nor corruption. The ultimate victory belongs to the righteous.

    [28:84] Whoever works righteousness receives a far better reward. As for those who commit sins, the retribution for their sins is precisely equivalent to their works.

    [28:85] Surely, the One who decreed the Quran for you will summon you to a predetermined appointment. Say, "My Lord is fully aware of those who uphold the guidance, and those who have gone astray."

    [28:86] You never expected this scripture to come your way; but this is a mercy from your Lord. Therefore, you shall not side with the disbelievers.

    [28:87] Nor shall you be diverted from GOD's revelations, after they have come to you, and invite the others to your Lord. And do not ever fall into idol worship.

    [28:88] You shall not worship beside GOD any other god. There is no other god beside Him. Everything perishes except His presence. To Him belongs all sovereignty, and to Him you will be returned.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  17. Jimmy Ray

    God just appeared to me behind Taco Bell and gave me two platinum tablets which I have already translated. They say credulity is not a virtue.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Evergreen7

      Did they also tell you how much a bean burrito costs? I think you might be reading the menu... But I'll follow you if you buy me a chalupa!

      June 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • john

      this is how you find your self worth? really bizarre man.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @John No, this is not how anyone finds their self worth. It's how one amuses oneself from time to time.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      @John Richardson

      True. It is fun to watch.
      Most Americans practice polygamy. It may be serial polygamy, but it's polygamy.

      Who did Joseph Smith marry ?
      They were mostly the friends and acquaintances of his first wife.
      There is some evidence she was pretty ticked off by the situation, and NEVER agreed with it.

      This whole discussion of "Christians believe this" and Mormons believe that" to me is off the mark.
      Clearly both groups are not monolithic. Clearly many, (most) believers in both groups believe some nutty things.
      For example some Christians say they believe in the Virgin birth. This despite the fact that Mathew spends the majority of his first chapter attempting to establish that Yeshua stood in the David line, through his father Joseph, then says Joseph was NOT the father ? Oops. On the other side the entire Book of Abraham thing is beyond farcical, and Smith's translation of hierogliphs(sp?) before the arrival of knowledge of the Rosetta stone is preposterous. BUT, all that aside,
      the question of whether or not a group stands inside or outside the Judeo-Christian tradition is not so much about whether they accept this or that, as it is about the PROCESS involved. Judeo-Christianities DEVELOPED from a long and complex culturally based process, (almost) always associated with communities of worshipers, which were the ultimate arbiter, (by inclusion or not into their liturgical celebrations), of the texts which they accepted as the authentic experience of that community, (and those that were found wanting were considered "heretical" or simply not used in the celebrations), (thus were left out, eventually, from their canon)). The problem with the group in question of this article, is that it was concocted by one uneducated man, not an organic eruption from a community. The PROCESS is flawed. For one man, in his cultural (and educational) vacuum, to stand up and make up things and declare them as authentic is not consistent with the known and accepted Judeo-Christian community's validation process, and it's one of the reasons he got so far off the mark. He seemed to be unaware of this actual process, even though some of the centers of biblical form and literary criticism, (especially in Austria-Germany (ie Tubingen University)) HAD begun to be aware of the historical, (archeologically validated) processes, (and eventually at Harvard and Yale and Princeton, and I'm sure other places I don't know about), by the time Smith was doing his thing.

      Always read with interest your comments.

      June 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Evergreen7

      Dang, Bucky. I just wanted a chalupa.

      June 25, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Sorry 'bout that. I'll remember the Beano next time. 😈

      June 25, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  18. fsmgroupie

    does the magical underwear work for everyone or do you have to be a mormon?

    June 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  19. Meteorite


    June 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Rodger

      They're a cult just as much as Christ as his apostles were a cult. If anyone doesn't agree please explain why.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  20. Drew

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Please spr, stop posting false statements and lies about the mormon people. Go peddle your hate somewhere else.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:38 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.