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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. TJeff1776

    I went to the web site below referenced and read the clumsily piece together deceptions- even a child would be able to detect. BUT, on the other hand, maybe thats who they think is reading it. I read other name-callers labelling Mormons "a cult". I suppose they use the term because they've heard others use it. Doubtful they can even define it. I've often heard Baptist call Methodist that. Its all designed to prejudice weak minds and stop people from investigating any Christian religion.

    June 26, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Rev F

    What I think is so funny about all of this is the fact that the members of the LDS Faith, the Mormons seem to be demonized by all. I love the post about the Mountain Meadows Massacre (Adam Troxel), it seems the list of genocidal events in the Roman Catholic Church's history escaped you. Ah well don't feel bad, you also seem to have missed the extreme levels of persecution that the 'Mormons' endured as they were driven from their homes and had everything they owned stolen by other so called Christians, and those who died as a result. But hey you are not alone, it seems that everyone would prefer to demonize them. I find that the intolerance towards the 'Mormon' faith is so stupid and a complete waste of time. Leave them alone. if you want to have something to pitch a fit over, change the government in your own country. Try and vote for those who will represent the true ideals of your founding fathers and not those who represent the lowest levels of morality. There is nothing wrong with having standards and it seems as long as the 'Mormons' have them, folks will continue to assault them from every angle. The 10 tens you don't know about the Mormons site is the same level of tabloid journalism that has Rat Boy serving in the American Armed forces and Oprah being a creature from Outer Space. Both I would recommend are taken with a grain of salt.

    June 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  3. Philojazz

    Thank "god" (who, of course, almost certainly doesn't exist) for people like Jim and DivideByZero. They keep some sense of sanity and rationality in this group of, I hate to have to use such a loaded word, delusional people. I'm sure there are more of you out there that wrote intelligent posts, but those of Jim and DivideByZero struck me as some of the best. Keep up the good work. The rest of you, begin by reading some Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, or, for that matter, Hemingway. Or a good biology textbook. Or just about anything that your "spiritual leader" does NOT want you to read. Open your minds, to help us all build a better America.

    June 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  4. me

    You people seriously need to find something better to do with your time...

    June 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  5. Ace

    What they dont tell you

    http://www.mmoutreach.org/mormon/articles/facts_mormon_wont_tell.htm

    June 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Brian

      You really should find a better source for what "Mormons won't tell you." The list is such a distortion from the truth and so easily discredited that it just makes you look like a liar and deceiver. I think it's sites like this and ministers who put out this trash are why they start out claiming Mormons think they are minions of Satan. Certainly it isn't Christian to bear false witness.

      June 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  6. rubberducky69

    Mormonism is a cult

    June 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Brian

      How so?

      June 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • SNAPPA

      ALL religions are cults by definition. One only needs to watch the episode of South Park to understand what Momonisim is. The comedy notwithstanding it give an accurate portrait of what it is and how ridiculous it is. It is one of the most accurate telling of the founding of the cult itself.

      June 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Muneef

      Thought Cult means that those who make a human sacrifice for their rituals such Does "Devil Worshipers" ?! Or you mean by "Cult" as it is by Muslim terms as "Sofizem" or "Sofia'a" ?

      June 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Muneef

      islamic sufism

      June 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Brian

      South Park is quite amusing. Imagine what they might do with a burning bush or talking donkey, or the reanimation of Lazerus. Jesus the zombie maker!!!

      June 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  7. Reality

    As we "thu-mp" along with rational thinking, conclusions and reiteration to counter the millennia of false and flawed religious history and theology!!!--––

    They are called the Great Angelic Cons:

    Joe Smith had his Moroni.

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
    Some added references to "tink-erbells".

    "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.

    newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

    "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."

    Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

    "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."
    And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

    "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

    "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

    "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    June 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      What you just posted falls under my 1st critical difference between Christianity and Mormonism. namely, that Mormonism practices Angelism; whereas, Christianity declares that the Logos is THE ontologically UNCREATED Word of God. In other words, Mormonism drags down Jesus from the level of God to just another angel of God (on the same level as Satan!)

      June 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Brian

      Mormonism teaches that Jesus was God from the foundation of the earth. Because we are also sons of God does not diminish his position and role in the universe.

      June 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Dolores

      Brian, one of many differences between Mormonism and mainline Christianity is that Christians believe in One triune God while Mormons believe in three distinctively different gods. In fact, Mormons believe there are many different gods outside of Christianity and that God the Father came from the planet Kolob. I have a series of articles pulled off of the LDS website from 2000-2003 that define key Mormon beliefs that are significantly outside mainline Christianity.

      June 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Brian

      Actually, the Trinity says three persons in one God. That is exactly what Mormons believe. The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants both say that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are ONE GOD. I truly recommend you read the book How Wide the Divide, a fair comparison of Evangelical beliefs vs Latter-day Saints, and you will find that the difference is nuance, and what a "person" is and if God is three separate persons who can individually be called God, or gods, as you point out. of course, if you ask a Jew or a Muslim, you are a polytheist plain and simple, so when you defend the trinity, you also defend Mormonism.

      June 27, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      Brian, I have a simple yes/no question for you. Was Jesus created or not?

      June 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Jesus is the spiritual son of God, just as all of us are. Jesus is the firstborn spiritual child of God (I think; I could be mistaking accepted belief for doctrine, here), and is thus our oldest spiritual brother. Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Spirit Who appeared in the burning bush to Moses and the like; this is why the God of the Old Testament is seen as disembodied; it happened before Christ was born in the flesh. Jesus is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh; however God did it, He made Mary bear His physical as well as spiritual child.

      Christ-the-man was the only human to be born physically of God, and was the Spirit Who guided the Old Testament. That He and God the Father are individual Beings can be seen clearly when John baptizes Christ: a light descended from the heavens and the Holy Ghost alighted on Christ in the form of a dove. A voice from the heavens said, "This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Three distinct, individual manifestations of the Godhead: Christ in the water, the holy ghost as a spirit in the form of a dove, and God the Father speaking from on high.

      Christ performed the infinite Atonement necessary to cleanse us all of our sins, if we would but work to rid ourselves of future ones and accept His Grace. He then died, opened the way for missionary work to be done for those who'd never heard of Him in life to be done, and broke the bonds of death to rise again on the third day, opening the way for the rest of us to one day be resurrected.

      Christ, in all appearances since His birth, has appeared enfleshed, just as His Father has always appeared. Prior to that, He was a spirit. He was also, still, God the Son, because it was He who was tasked to do all His Father's work in exacting this plan of salvation for all of us, His spiritual brothers and sisters.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  8. SquareRootOfMinusOne

    There many critical differences between Christianity and Mormonism. Mormons do not believe 1) in the Logos, THE Son of God, 2) the Holy Trinity, and 3) Creation created ex-nihilo. For the 3rd point, Mormons believe that creation has perpetually existed (a la Aristotle) and that we pre-existed as spirit children (a la Plato).

    June 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Brian

      1. Mormons believe that Jesus is the only begotten of the Father, that he is God and was God from the foundation of the world.
      2. Mormons believe in the Godhead as described in the NT, that is One God made up of three persons or beings (Father, Son, Holy Ghost). They do not believe they are the same being/person, but are separate persons, but are still One God.
      3. Mormons do in fact believe that all matter and spirit is eternal, and that we did exist prior to the creation of the Earth. There are several Biblical verses that affirm this position:

      God of the spirits of all flesh, Num. 16:22 (Num. 27:16).
      all the sons of God shouted for joy, Job 38:7
      the spirit shall return unto God who gave it, Eccl. 12:7
      Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, Jer. 1:5
      Lord … formeth the spirit of man within him, Zech. 12:1
      who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind, John 9:2
      poets have said, For we are also his offspring, Acts 17:28
      For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, Rom. 8:29
      chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1:4
      subjection unto the Father of spirits, Heb. 12:9
      angels which kept not their first estate, Jude 1:6
      Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, Rev. 12:7

      June 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  9. Jennifer

    South Park pretty much covered it to a T....

    June 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Rev F

      Please reassure me that South Park is not your moral compass and general resource for life?!

      June 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  10. ComeSeeForYourself

    There are many who chronically misunderstand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints because they are busy trying to explain the Church from the outside. They are so busy believing what they want to believe about the Church that they will not take the time to learn what they need to learn about it. They prefer any explanation to the real explanation. Some prefer to believe the worst rather than to know the truth. Still others are afraid to part the smokescreen of allegations for fear of what they will see. One cannot see the Louvre by remaining in its lobby. One cannot understand the LDS church by remaining outside.

    June 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  11. Jolleen

    Get the rest of the story at Mormon.org

    June 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Adam Troxel

      Mountain Meadows massacre : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre

      Mormons are murderers

      June 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • blackfootsmj1

      http://en.fairmormon.org/Mountain_Meadows_Massacre/Summary the truth.

      June 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Ace

      the site you listed is written and funded by mormons. fairlds.org – an organization of liars and cheats.

      Your link is dishonest and misleading. It sums up the Mormons for many of us.

      June 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Brian

      I thought that saying Brigham Young orchestrated the event quite misleading, considering he was days away in communication (pre-telegraph) and actually had a letter being sent to the area telling the settlers not to harm the travelers. But, you will never hear this part of history from anti-Mormons.

      June 27, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  12. Collin

    Decent article that explains the basics, but I can do without all the hate bashing comments.

    June 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • DivideByZero

      .... then don't read them. Considering religion is built on top of greed, guilt, hate and fear what do you expect?

      June 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  13. Name*Dbqdawg

    Do not judge me Sunday one if you want to waste 10% of your ncome go ahead Btw hurry up and build that temple in Missouri so your heavenly father can get you out of my hair. Or your false prophecies are revealed. Either will work

    June 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • SundayOne

      You should have been a comedian. Your comments are laughable... but at the end of the day no one takes you seriously.

      June 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  14. Teddy R

    I know far too many of the LDS faith to ever believe any of the outlandish lies being spread on this blog.

    June 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Jefferson Smith

      I have known far too many of them. Far, far too many.

      The nice thing is a veneer, thin as paper.

      June 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  15. MuchAdo

    The only crazies are the people who campout on this blog posting wild and outrageous lies about a faith they know nothing about. Time to get a new hobby – like killing goats or skinning deer hides. Get a life!

    June 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • DivideByZero

      True, which is why adding Mormonism would overflow with craziness.

      June 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  16. SundayOne

    Very few posts on here today from actual Later-Day Saints, as they are all in church where the rest of you should be.

    June 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Jim

      Church? What for? Can't you pray to your Invisible Sky Friend from your home?

      June 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Drew

      Jim, please have at least a minimal understanding of religion before posting here.

      "Forsake not the assembling of yourself together..."

      June 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jim

      Quoting from a Book of Makebelieve Stories is not proof Drew. Can you not come up with your own argument in support of your Insibible Sky Friend without relying on a religious crutch that is full of stories that condone slavery, murder, adultery, and pedophilia?

      June 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Can you not come up with at least original ways to mock those who believe in God? Seriously, the lack of imagination and the amount of lock-step thought amongst so-called "free thinkers" who mock religion is staggering.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  17. Jim

    Magic undies, don't drink coffee, and every man gets his own planet upon his death. Wackos! Besides, Mormons follow not the writings of Jesus but of the pedophile Joseph Smith.

    June 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • John

      I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I find it amazing how people who know very little can come up with some strange conclusions about the church. Its very simple to do the same thing to other so called christian churches, but I am taught and believe that contention is of the devil. So for those who wish to put down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is your choice. However, hear say of something you don't know, or don't understand can be explained if you only ask.

      June 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • DivideByZero

      Exactly what was stated that isn't true? JS did marry a 14 year old girl which by definition is a pedophile. Look it up! It's not our fault your church hides from it's own history.

      June 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Me

      Amen Jim!!!

      June 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Er... by MODERN definition, yes. Are you saying that 90% of medieval europe were pedophiles? Girls were frequently married off back then as soon as their first period.

      The idea that a woman in full flower (to use somewhat purple prose) was a child just because she was still 14 is not something that came about until the 1900s, if I recall my history correctly. "Pedophilia" prior to that was less chronologically-based than physical-maturity-based.

      This sort of deliberate misrepresentation is why anti-mormons begin to sound craven and crazed when people really look into their supposed claims.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  18. Morgan

    Look, all the Mormons I've known are very nice people, but I still wouldn't convert to Mormonism. It's just as kooky as anything else out there, and I'm not fond of the special Underoos.

    June 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  19. bill

    Mormons are not christians – we are not gods. Gods are not living creatures walking the earth.

    June 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Brian

      Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? -John 10:34

      June 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  20. DivideByZero

    "The Mormon religion was founded in upstate New York in 1830"

    180 years? Exactly how long are "latter days" anyways?

    June 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Elder Bernie Madoff

      These are very lucrative latter days, so God has chosen to extend his special offer. Operators are standing by.

      June 26, 2011 at 4:09 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.