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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. JWH

    Mormonism is a false religion, being that it is a major deviation from Christianity. But no one reports on the President's church, the UCC.
    It is a pro Gae counterfiet church. It is a fake churck, propped up to support liberal ideology like anti-Americanism, social justice and gaes. Now that is a story. Mormons have many things wrong, but at least they worship a good god and do good.

    June 28, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  2. Ghân-buri-Ghân

    Mormonism: the belief in total bullsht. There. That was easy.

    June 28, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Hamptonacres

      LOL !!!

      June 28, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • JWH

      You can always spot a false religion, it requirs more faith.
      Faith is in what God can and will do.
      False religions require faith in what man did and can do.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  3. Hamptonacres

    Feelings are no guarantee of truthfulness. If I did read the Book of Mormon (which I have twice) and prayed about it and the spirit tells me "no, it's false," then would it make it false for everyone? Would you believe me if I told you that the spirit told me this? Or would you think that Satan told me "no." Basically, if I'm told "No" then that is from Satan, but if "yes" then that is from the Holy Ghost. What if the church was false, then maybe a "yes" would be from Satan to lead me astray and a "no" would from God to help me get back to him? No offense, but the Mormon challenge to read and pray about it is very circular logic. Funny thing, "I got a burning in the boosm" just watching Braveheart. What should I think about that?

    June 28, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  4. Sam

    Um...there are still way too many stories of young women running away from the LDS as they were being forced to lead restrictive lives and marry men much older than they. And how about situations as those on "Sister Wives"? That doesn't happen much with other faiths...

    June 28, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Jim

      That sounds a lot more like FDLS to me.

      June 28, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Imamormon

      As the video explained, that is the FLDS church, not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • AJ

      Your reference is to a number of anti-Mormon groups, who have used a religious pretense to justify a lot of things which are clearly wrong. Right and wrong is one of the issues believed in by Mormons.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  5. AMF

    Funny there was no mention of Mormons' (past?) practice of racial discrimination. As a boy, I participated in this church and recall the sunrise seminary lessons about Cain and Abel and how God made Cain black for killing Abel and cast him out. And that all black people were descendants of Abel and therefore not allowed to hold the same priesthood as the good whites. That was an awesome way to keep discrimination alive forever!

    After about fourteen or fifteen, I didn't have much to do with the church anymore for a variety of reasons not the least of which was the utter hypocrisy, but I've found that in every church since so they're no better and no worse as far as that goes.

    Mormonism is just like any other thing which people use to band together and suppose they are better than the rest. People will be people...what you gonna do?

    June 28, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • AMF

      Sorry, got mixed up at one point regarding Cain and Abel. I was taught that black people were the descendants of CAIN, not Abel. Cain was the bad guy and black people all came from him. Pretty hideous stuff for a religion to be teaching children, no? America! But we're getting better I think.

      I always wondered how they worked their way around that doctrine. I have heard there is a high ranking black man in the church now. Wonder how he got a pass...

      And finally, what's up with the caffeine ban...Seriously? God gets mad if I drink coffee? Sorry Elders, it's a bunch of arbitrary b.s. that some even more old and anal retentive white man pulled out of his backside.

      Let's all not take ourselves too seriously and just try to get along. Thanks!

      June 28, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  6. Zelda

    Happiness is nothing to do with truth. Mormons are not being disliked; we just know they need proper understanding of the Bible. Honest Mormons read the whole Bible, never stay happy indoctrinated.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  7. California55

    http://www.mormon.org

    June 28, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  8. Dale C

    I have a large and happy family and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is what brought me so much happiness! I am sorry that a-musing and others are so miserable and dislike us so much, but tomorrow morning I will wake up to another wonderful day just the same.

    June 28, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • AMF

      Lebron? I had no idea you were mormon.

      June 28, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  9. Christian

    @Read_Ask God. Just prayed to ask if it was true....nope...God said, "Nope, it's not".

    June 28, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  10. Roger

    I'm a devout member of the LDS church. I thought "Explain it to me: Mormonism" was fair and pretty accurate.

    As for the rest of the bickering, its just not worth my time to read...

    June 28, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  11. Dale C

    I would just like to point out that Mitt Romney was a very successful businessman. His religion didn't get in the way of that.

    June 28, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  12. Reality

    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 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  13. Eric in Mesa

    Should have used the South Park episode "All About the Mormons".

    June 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Mormons are an interesting tribe – to be underestimated at your peril. Even if their beliefs are dismissed out of hand – as utter nonsense – consider this. Most religious groups who retire into the outback end up like Jonestown. Instead, the Mormons crossed the Plains, made peace with the Indians and rebuilt civilization on their own. The average Mormon child has had more speaking opportunities than most adults. The average Mormon child knows how to start, lead and end a meeting, knows how to delegate responsibilities, knows how to organize a social network surprisingly well.

      Laugh at the Mormon belief that Christ came to America – and appeared in cultures all over the world – but in this belief is the Mormon hope that God loves all his children. Laugh at the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead – along with the Mormon rejection of Hell and the Mormon belief in multiple heavens – but in them is the Mormon belief that God is just, that God will not leave any person behind and that each person will get what he or she deserves.

      Joseph Smith, as the modern-American prophet, may require a certain amount of faith – even to consider as a possibility – but in this lies the Mormon belief that the modern age is every bit as important as ancient times. An easier conclusion would be that the Bible is an outdated set of primitive stories but Mormons, by their belief in modern scripture, strive to bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and the world the rest of us live in.

      The Mormon approach, while odd to those who've never considered it, is a viable path. For those who hold to it, it provides safety and structure as a foundation on which to build strong families and tightly-knit communities. It deserves a little more respect than it gets from online jesters and rabid anti-Mormon crusaders.

      June 28, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • John Smith

      Bill, you are quite wrong. Mormonism deserves every bit of abuse we can heap upon it. It deserves to be destroyed.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:14 am |
    • JWH

      You missed the big points of Christianity. No hell? Jesus spke of hell more than anyone else. He knew how bad it IS.

      BTW, that is why there is a cross......so that we would not have to go there.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Brian

      So John have do you see kyle yet. Or are you reminiscing about the good ole days of Auschwitz?

      June 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  14. nick

    Religion doesn't matter. Unless it leads you to trust faith over reason, which may work well for your soul but it doesn't help running a country. Should your unwavering faith lead you to reduce the rights of others (abortion, gay marriage, etc) the actions borne of your particular religion do become an issue. An it is religion itself that becomes an issue, or rather a distraction, when we argue for years over inconsequential issues like gay rights and avoid dealing with potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation. In the end, we legislate with morality and for many that morality is directly informed by their religious beliefs. But lets not fall into similar patterns as Islam, where their rules for drawing the Prophet actually apply to non-believers as well. If you want to believe in supernatural fairy-tales that's ok, in fact it seems to be a prerequisite for President, but don't apply the behavioral restrictions from your faith on all citizens.

    June 27, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      I think your understanding of Mormonism is a little cartoonish but I agree with the idea that we don't all have to believe the same stuff in order to form a community and elect various individuals to represent our political convictions. I like the idea you seem to suggest, that beliefs inspire values and it's these values that matter so much more than the details of theology, or mythology, if the two are not one and the same thing to begin with. If a Muslim reads the Qur'an – and says it's wrong to steal – while a Jew reads Exodus and a Christian reads Matthew, who cares what they read as long as they agree that stealing is wrong? While the mythologies and rituals will never agree, much of practical morality is universal.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • nick

      exactly what I meant: 'beliefs inspire values and it's these values that matter so much more than the details of theology"– my concern comes when the beliefs inspire values at odds with personal freedoms or our common morality? We want a President of faith, but not one who's convictions are so strong they inhibit a rational application of freedom.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  15. wharfrat

    How do magnets work?

    June 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • AnnoyingHappyGuy

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferromagnetism

      June 28, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  16. Hamptonacres

    These posts are pro and anti Mormon. Kind of interesting. Regardless if the person who is running for President carries one Christian Bible or two shouldn't matter. What the person's plateform he or she is running on should be looked at instead. Everyone who runs for political office brings with them his or her morals, so regardless if you are Mormon, Seventh Day or Jehova Witness, Catholic or Luthern just to name a few shouldn't matter at all. Lets suppose you had a Muslem running who had a track record of stellar polical performance, then a crooked politician who was a Christian, who would you vote for? Hopefully, you would vote for the Muslem, not because he was a Muslem, but because of his ability to do the job. Now for me, I've studied many, many religions and even though James Strang made a better argument than Bringham Young, it is amazing how many followed Young to Utah instead of to Michigan with Strang. The Kinderhook plates, the Meadow Massacre, the various rewrittings of the Book of Mormon, all show falsehood with Joseph's arguments. If God has a body and visited Smith in the grove of trees, then wouldn't that make God an Alien? If so, how did God get to earth with his body? A space ship? Where is God now? On a planet? If so, is heaven a physical place or a spiritual place? All dosn't make much sense to me. Despite all that, when I read about Romney's plateform I think he would make an excellent President. His relgious beliefs are of little concern to me.

    June 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Any belief can be rendered absurd if you go at it with the intent of making it sound foolish.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Hamptonacres

      Well maybe believing is absurd to begin with. A scientist creates some gremlins in his basement and keeps them in a sandbox, and tends to them. The scientist's son comes down to the basment and the scientist requests his son to crawl into the sandbox with the gremlins. The Gremlins decide to kill the son and the scientist turns his back and doesn't help his son. Why? Those who have ears let them hear.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  17. Read_Ask God

    If you have doubts about the Book of Mormon, you could always read it for yourself. In fact, after you do, why not pray and ask God if it's true. Better Him helping you, rather than someone on a message board.

    June 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Tim

      I can tell if a person is a true follower of Christ by how they act towards other people and how they post.
      The Christ that I know, teaches us to love one another. I really do love Christ teachings. He teaches us to Love one another, Judge not or you will be Judge. Thank You Jesus! It is wonderful to be a part of Christ church in an evil world. I thank you for a positive post. Peace be with all those who understand and I pray for those who don’t. God Bless

      June 28, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  18. srj

    It's a way a man can molests young innocent vunerable girls.They marry them & force them to become baby making machines

    June 27, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Polygamy can be – and has been – used to subjugate women, including young women. Right now, in the Middle East, there are 9-year-old brides who are married to old men. In the case of Joseph Smith, there are things he did – in the name of plural marriage – that are curious, if not utterly troubling, including marrying twins, at least one 14-year-old and the wives of men who were not only alive but fellow church members. But as far as creating "baby making machines," history may not be as gentle with Joseph Smith as the average Mormon would like, but it's clear from it that Joseph Smith did not end up with a lot of kids. Joseph only had children with his (first) wife, Emma. While the couple had seven children, three of them died in infancy. Joseph and Emma adopted the twins of another woman who died in childbirth, one of whom died of measles a year later. Of the four boys who survived, one of them was born after Joseph Smith's death.

      Of the 23 women Joseph Smith married, it's hard to say exactly how many he had relations with. There are a number of instances where he was "sealed" to women who were happy to be connected to this religious rock star but far too old to make desirable groupies.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  19. sew what

    I don't care, just keep religion out of government, something the GOP just does not understand.

    June 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Ironically, Mormonism being as controversial as it is, one way to keep religion out of government is to elect someone whose religious affiliations give millions of people the heebie jeebies. Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, even non-religious folks like Atheists, Agnostics and Humanists, cause at least some part of the public to be hyper-vigilant. If you elect someone who represents a religion nobody wants, you are more likely to get less religion in government – because the alternative is to leave the politician vulnerable to all kinds of charges.

      Personally, I look forward to the day when America elects a self-professed Atheist to the presidency, although the election of Thomas Jefferson shows that religious skeptics were more common nearer the Founding than among today's professional politicians.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • TikTiLa-oooookkkkkkkkkk

      Keeping a MAN of religion in the government doesn't necessarily keep religion (itself) in the government.

      Atheists could never win in anything, they belong in the minority when it comes to their numbers in the populace as well with their IQ. They usually end-up losing a debate (even) with a chicken.

      June 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  20. grasspress

    whoa mama! does this mean that if romney or huntsmen have on their magic panties they will win the nomination? but only one can win. so does this mean the one with the less magical panties with be banned to second class status?

    i just don't get it. no wonder these guys were chased from state to state. this small article just touches the edges of some of the goofiest crap these guys are required to believe in. before voting for any of these bozos you should check out the full story. you think christians jews and muslims have the corner on nonsense? well, you ain't seen nothin' yet! i know. i was there!

    June 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Temple garments aren't "magic panties." They're just an undergarment Mormons wear after they've made their covenants in the temple. The "top" looks like an ordinary t-shirt, with a few marks subtly sewn in, to remind them of certain covenants that involve being a responsible, committed member of the Mormon community. The bottom looks like a sports brief, though just a little longer. I've worn these. The cotton ones are very comfortable and breathe nicely. They won't stop a bullet but if they help a person remember to be honest and true, both with God and man, people like you shouldn't complain.

      The people you should be worried about are the ones who have no code to live up to, who take what they can get and avoid responsibility wherever they can. Try coming home to a house that someone has broken into and you'll quickly see that it's better to have neighbors who play by the rules than neighbors who will take everything that isn't nailed down.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:44 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.