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. Jonesy

    I would vote for Romney in a heart beat. Much better leader than the curt gang in office.

    June 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  2. Carlito Swagger

    This doesn't tell me much about mormons

    June 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  3. TJeff1776

    EMACK......I read your outline and wouldn't have written it that way at all. By virtue of your overall article you tend to paint this Major character as though he is an example of everyone in the Mormon Church. BUT in truth, I have personally met Baptist, Methodist, Catholics, etc etc that fit the exact same description in all walks of life. You can't judge one individual
    and apply it to all. The Mormon Church consists of millions in the US alone......and some that fail to follow Christ's teachings and the same applies to ANY church.....including yours....if you have one.

    June 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  4. James

    I am no longer welcome in my Baptist congregation because I told our Pastor to stop ranting about Mormons... one of my best friends has been targeted by other kids in my school because of his faith in the Mormon Church and I felt it my civil duty to stick up for what was right – now I have a target on my back.

    So, for you Mormons or anyone else persecuted because of your religion, remember this: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" John 15:18

    and 1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

    Those professed "Christian's" who persecute others are fulfilling Christ's prophecy that TRUE believers will be among the hated, not the mainstream. I have become among the hated (not as a convert to Mormonism, but an outcast for preaching civility). Be kind and love thy neighbor as thyself and let your oldschool-bigoted Pastor be brought brought before judgement knowing that he preached hatred and fear instead of love and charity.

    June 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Becca

      Thank you for standing up to haters and doing what is right. You will be blessed for it.

      October 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  5. elbert holmes

    And the Garden of Eden was in Missouri!!!
    Only the elders see the "golden tablets." Sounds very hoaky....A great pitch for a TV evangilist con-man.....

    June 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  6. EMack

    I was worked with a Mormon when I was in the mlitary; he was a Major who was bucking for Colonel. I did not work directly for him, but was in the same secure office space as he. None of his people liked him, and he received little respect from other officers. Why? Because he was a hyprocrite, and was extremely lazy. His mouth did all the work. His wife called him every hour to be sure he was Ok, and his kids were always in some type of trouble. Surely he was not a total reflection of every Mormon out there, however, he did no good for the perception of the Mormon religion as a whole. When we had office picnics he would go on rants about how if everybody embraced the Mormon religion, the country would be in better shape, meanwhile his kids were throwing food at peoples cars. His office never received any accomodations, or accolades. Everyone who worked for him tried feverishly to get out of that workcenter. I've never known any Mormons personally, but my experience with them has always been questionable. I thought it was just some cult, I mean some guy goes to Egypt and supposedly some tablets that no one has ever seen opens the door to a religion?? I would need to hear more from someoen a bit more educated, and not just some read from an article or book. Just my 2 cents,...

    June 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Sadly, I've met mormons like that. We are all human, and being a member of the church does not make you automatically a faithful follower. I am sorry this was your formative experience with the church, and invite you to seek out your local ward and maybe get to know them. Find out how a community of mormons actually acts. (If anything, I tend to find fellow mormons somewhat creepy because they're so extremely friendly and KNOW YOUR NAME. I'm an introvert by nature and prefer to be the one reaching out, rather than be reached out to. But mormons mean well by it, because they really do want to be accepted by community and assume everyone else does, too. So they provide a community with wholesome values and invite any who care to participate to do so.)

      July 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  7. Adam

    Honestly, I consider myself pretty open minded but the reason I think Mormonism is different somehow, is because there is this "veil" people talk about with the church. In reality, I know Mormons who are great people and some who aren't as great and religion as a whole is a giant leap of faith. It just so happens that mormonism can be a tougher pill to swallow because it is so young. It's not much crazier than any other religion at the end of the day I guess...

    June 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  8. Al

    Why is there so much hate against the Mormons. The Bible says:

    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    38 This is the first and great commandment.

    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt alove thy neighbour as thyself.

    Looks like those who are bashing the Mormons are not following God's second commandment and not Christian like.

    June 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • remnant0888

      It isn't bashing ..but Mormonism is not Christian as 'the Jesus' they follow is not the Son of the Living God ..he is a created being, CREATED BY A UNION OF MARY AND god the father who became god after death like they say god the father did ....and like they say ALL MORMON MEN DO.

      June 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Floyd Johnson

      Remnant – I am suddenly confused. Don't all Christians believe Jesus was born of Mary? Looks like both groups are recognizing the same individual, the same miraculous birth. Help me understand your point better.

      June 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Brian

      Yeah, isn't Jesus the only begotten of the father? Do you know what "begotten" means?

      June 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @remnant The idea that Mary was impregnated by a human who achieved some god-like status after death is vastly less hokey than the idea that Mary was impregnated by some sort of supernatural being. Since Jesus was male, he had to receive his Y chromosome from God the Father. How exactly did that happen under the standard Christian account?

      June 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  9. jak

    Maybe this has already been mentioned and I missed it (sorry...not reading through each of 1,411 comments)...but when talking about principles of a faith, it's "tenets", not "tenants". Tenants are people who live somewhere.

    June 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  10. JT

    For an open an honest discussion about Mormonism feel free to meet with some of their volunteers:


    June 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • emanym

      And then after your discussion with a mormon missionary, read: Mormon America, No Man Knows My History, Under the Banner of Heaven, or their very own Journal of Discourses and investigate the church for yourself. Or Google "What the mormons won't tell you." Or if you really want to be educated, look up the five most racist quotes ever spoken by a mormon president. That's if you REALLY want to learn about the mormon church. I can see why people would be fascinated by this topic.

      June 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>> Emanym: "look up the five most racist quotes ever spoken by a mormon president. "

      Interesting. Wonder how many past United States presidents felt about African Americans.

      Hmm... I do believe a few even owned slaves.

      I wonder how many college deans and presidents claimed that African Americans would never cross their halls without a mop in their hands.

      But, ... here we are. We have African Americans all the way to the top of Government and in the Military, we have African Americans now as Deans of universities.

      Finally, we have African Americans whole are Mormons. Tell me, do you hold every organization to the past comments and views of its followers and leaders .... or have you joined the civil society and judged groups on what they do and say today.


      June 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • emanym

      Mark from Middle River, are you comparing mere men to Prophets of God?? Tsk Tsk. This quote from Brigham Young is straight out of the Mormon's own Journal of Discourses: "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the CHOSEN SEED mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is DEATH ON THE SPOT. This will always be so." The prophet has spoken! You see, Mormons think the Mark of Cain is black skin because dark skinned people were naughty in the pre-existence. Haha!!

      June 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • JT

      I think people who are obsessed with the whole theory of people being cursed, should here the testimonies of African, and African-American members of the Mormon Church (such as Gladys Knight). I'm sure they don't think they are cursed.

      June 27, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  11. TJeff1776

    For whatever pleasure it gives the fasehood bearers, most of the stuff written herein about Mormonism is completely foreign
    to the actual truth. For example, according to George above, they are fat, mean, pressured to marry young, have a group called the "Avenging Angels"(KBG types), etc etc-..... Oh, as in all churches and organizations, there exists fat and mean members without a doubt. In the Ward(400 members) I belong to, I can't pick a single mean one out. If one does come, he/she wouldn't last long. As for "Avenging Angels"- never heard of such. Who would put up with any group or individual like that ??? If George can name the Ward(which he can't) wherein that goes on- I would be grossly shocked.

    June 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • emanym

      Avenging Angels...Danites...protected Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Good grief, even Mark Twain made reference to them when he met with Mormons in Utah. Most Mormons know so little about the origins of their own church.

      June 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  12. Sorry to be a troll...

    But, this article didn't explain how magnets work.

    June 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Are you SURE??? Did you actually READ it???

      June 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  13. emanym

    The mormons on here trying to defend their cult sure are getting their garmies in a bunch. I love it!

    June 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      I'm not wearing garmies. I'm wearing boxers and laying out beneath the air conditioner. It's so hot outside.

      June 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • emanym

      Then you must not be a good mormon, Mr. Kilpatrick. A good mormon wears the holy G's all the time (unless they are swimming, exercising, etc.) Surely, you know you need to have them on if you are simply lounging around on a hot day. Put them back on before something bad happens!!

      June 26, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  14. T357

    I've worked with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints most my life and find them to be honest, hard working, decent people. I've been in their homes, watched them raise their children and see more goodness in what they LIVE than in all the rest of the creeds combined. How can you possibly bash these people unless you've never known them? I'm scratchin' my head on this one.

    June 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • NoMormor

      I was a Mormon for 25 yrs. and I agree that they are honest, loving and hard working. That is not the issue here; its their beliefs. As an exmormon I find it interesting that the LDS want to be seen as mainstream Christians. But if you know anything about the origins of Mormonism you know that God supposedly told Joseph Smith to join none of the churches "for all their creed were an abomination in his sight; that those professors are all corrupt". That means all of the Christian sect are an abomination!

      June 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Karmagirl

      I agree T357. My best friend is Mormon, and while I don't understand everything about the religion, her family has always
      welcomed me into their home with open arms, and they are some of the best parents I have ever met.

      June 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Toby

      I can make the same kindly observations about people who do not believe in any supernatural ideas-your observation proves nothing about the veracity of their religious beliefs, but my point proves absolutely that you do not need religion (including Mormonism) to be decent, kind, benevolent, and honest. Peace.

      June 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @NoMormor Pretty much every Christian sect at least started out thinking all others had gone irredeemably astray and many cling to that belief tenaciously.

      June 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  15. JackO

    Been a Mormon my entire and find great peace in living the teachings. I find most the comments on this blog offensive and untrue. Very ignorant crowd. Read the Book of Mormon if you want to know what we believe or visit Mormon . org

    June 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • JLP

      The thing that amazes me is that Joseph Smith could not produce the tablets that he allegedly found,nor explain how he could translate hieroglyphics when he had very little education. The only reason the church banned polygamy is that the federal govt. would not admit Utah as a state until they did.

      June 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • NoMormor

      If you want to do some research about the History of the LDS Church do a search on the Kinderhook Plates.
      And remember that "Truth can withstand Scrutiny" please don't be afraid to ask questions.

      June 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Brian

      If you do research, you will find there are several descriptions of the translation process. There are 11 witnesses who never recanted their testimony, even after leaving the church. They had every reason to recant, but they didn't. I would recommend reading "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman. It's the best biography of Joseph Smith out there, bar none.

      As to the Kinderhook plates, that was a blip on Mormon history. He never made any attempt to translate them, and had little to no interest in them. and although anti-Mormons like to quote his auto-biographical notes where he speculated their possible origins, they don't realize (or choose to ignore) that it was actually written by his secretary as a second hand account.

      June 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  16. sb52853

    I once worked with a recent Mormon convert who tried to recruit me, but it didn't work. She invited me to a Saturday night gathering of some other recent converts and one "lifer" (that was the word he used) who she tried to fix me up with. All I could think of when I looked at him was that stupid looking underwear he was probably wearing. They sat around and drank Kool Aid and didn't seem to be having the least bit of fun–one of them was knitting! These people were all in their 20's. We played charades and I committed a great faux pas by saying "good Lord" when reading what I was supposed to act out, which was a Bible passage. I left early and went straight to a bar.

    June 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  17. fsmgroupie

    magical underwear? c'mon! it's a flagrant money grab–how can you not see it?

    June 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Brian

      Who exactly is the money going to?

      June 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Magic


      Manufacturing and selling religious accoutrement is a quite lucrative enterprise.

      June 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Brian

      Lucrative, yes, but to who? Who is getting rich? The church leaders are chosen from the public sector. There is no professional clergy. No one "trains" to become an apostle. The Apostles, if they have money, got it from professions outside of the church. An example, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle was an executive for Lufthansa airlines. No church leader got rich from being a Mormon. It just doesn't happen.

      June 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Magic

      Brian: Ahem... T-i-t-h-e!

      June 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • emanym

      Part of it is going to pay for advertising space on Times Square. That's very expensive. BTW, I saw Book of Mormon the Musical a few weeks ago. FABULOUS!!

      June 26, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  18. J.Smith

    Please pull your godheads out of your asses.

    June 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  19. A.Pal

    I really like this cnn religion site and checking out these comments is one of my guilty pleasures but sometimes it just kind of brings you down. I grew up LDS and for the most part still consider myself a Mormon yet one of the things I have a difficult time with my church and all religions is how often the members put other faiths down. There are plenty of things about the LDS faith that I DO NOT agree with as well as plenty of things I do find that bring happiness into my life.
    One of the difficulties I find with all faiths is how often the founder is such a revolutionary for their time (in a social and spiritual way) yet often the followers try to implement the exact same teaching thousands of years later when the world has greatly changed. I do like to supplement my faith with other teachings as well...some of my faves: The Dalai Lama, Jim Wallis, Thich Nhat Han, Rob Bell, and Gil Fronsdal among others. All faiths have messages of love that can enrich and enlighten. Does it really matter if there was an angel Moroni, if Jesus was the son of God, if Siddhartha Guatama reached enlightenment, if Muhammad communed with Moses and Allah? I argue that it does NOT. There is so much power in the more than historical meaning that can inspire and uplift. Instead of worrying about who hold the keys to heaven after we die let's instead focus on bringing the kingdom of heaven to Earth through peace, charity, compassion, understanding. After all there is no way any of us can know 100% what happens when you or I pass on but I bet if you sincerely live the golden rule and there actually is some kind of afterlife not only will you have had a happy life but you'll be sitting pretty there as well. I apologize for my rant but I just hope we may love one another and reach out with understanding despite our differences.

    June 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Toby

      Why not save yourself a lot of grief and heartache and simply think for yourself instead of holding to ideas that you were indoctrinated into since birth? I'm guessing you're a nice person, but why not just jettison all the supernatural hocus pocus and live according to what you CAN see and talk to those who CAN talk back to you? Religion, it seems, is simply based on fear of death-once we accept that there is no evidence at all that the dead come back to life we can start to act like grownups and accept what we know and can prove. Peace.

      June 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  20. George

    I once worked for a bunch of Mormons. They only hired me because they couldn't find one of their Mormon brothers that could do my job. Everything is group think for them, and they all think that they superior to all others that are not Mormon. They also made me outsource all jobs to other Mormons, even if another company was more qualified and less expensive. They also only drink Sprite, so t think the Sprite company must me run by Mormons, too. All of them were mean and nasty to anyone that is not a Mormon. Oh, I forgot to mention, they all also fat because they are pressured into marring young, so they can populate the world with as many Mormons as possible. Most of them are so fat because they feel that their live is over. They also have a group called the Avenging Angeles, that they don't like to talk about. The Avenging Angeles send followers over to their houses to check up on them all the time, similar to the KGB.

    June 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jrod

      Bwahaaaa, haaaa haaa haa ha ha! That's the craziest stuff I've ever heard. I've been around Mormon's my whole life. I've lived in Utah, Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I don't care what group of humans you are talking about, you will always come across one or a group that you don't agree with. It sound's like you need a better sample size to have a better judgement of the people. I've asked may different Mormons I know about the "Avenging Angeles" and every single one of them have no idea what I am talking about. Maybe you are referring to the missionaries. Even still, there isn't anyone "checking up on you" unless it's a home teacher making sure all your needs are being met. The US government should take a page from the mormon church and maybe we wouldn't have so many problems with the country. As far as Sprite goes, it is owned by the Coke-Cola company.
      AS A WHOLE . . . members of the Mormon church are honest, loyal, law abiding citizens. Most people would love to have them for neighbors and co workers because they would know they would be respectful of them and watch out for them etc. Again, I am saying as a whole. Every religion has some who are not "up to par" so to speak. Even then, it doesn't mean they are bad people, they just may be struggling with issues. No one is perfect.

      June 25, 2011 at 3:05 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.