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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. Sad

    Dan, you call this Mormonism 101!? Fail! You call yourself an editor? This is the most pathetic example of investigative reporting I have ever seen.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  2. K

    Ken Long…. There is absolutely no way there is more archaeological evidence for the book of Mormon that is a lie. In fact most claimed evidence has proven to be a fraud. For example the book of Abraham in the book of Mormon. It comes a from a Egyptian papyri that translated into 86 words from the Egyptian Book of the dead. Joseph Smith claimed it was over 4,000 words from Abraham.. Just look this stuff up. Bottom line the God Mormons worship and believe in is not the God the Christian faith believes in.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  3. u2canC

    Mormons do not believe in the Trinity. They believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate gods. They also believe that the Father has a wife and their first-born was Jesus.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • wrong

      How silly, trinity? How old are you?

      October 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Melissa

      "The father has a wife and their first born was Jesus?" Where did you get that from? Because it is said that Christ was His "only begotten son?" Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day have Mary in every nativity scene, movie, and picture.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  4. Madison Minstrel

    Mormonism declared war against the United States shortly before the Civil War. They refused to obey any of the laws of the United States. After its military defeat the Mormons were forced to outlaw polygamy, child marriage, and a host of others.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  5. wrong

    silly religions,, when will people grow up?

    October 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Shade

    Why not provide an actual fact like the Mormon church's Book of Abraham, supposedly translated divinely by Joseph Smith, has now, thanks to the original manuscript and the Rosetta Stone, conclusively been shown to be a complete fabrication and act of Smith's imagination. Or maybe that none of the "history of the America's" contained in the Book of Mormon can be matched up with any archeological site in the US, and in many places can be shown to be, again, outright falsehoods.

    If the article is correct, there's 14 million people living a lie due to the LDS church's insistence on perpetuating a myth so that it can grow its economic empire.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • David

      "thanks to the original manuscript and the Rosetta Stone, conclusively been shown to be a complete fabrication and act of Smith's imagination" What you are trying to pass off as facts and evidence is just ANTI-MORMON LITERATURE. You can tell it is false because it suggests that the LDS Mormon Church is not the One True Church. Why bother reading that falsehood.

      p.s. Amway, NuSkin, and Equinox rule

      October 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  7. David

    "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has outlawed polygamy since 1890" should be changed to: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted a formal against polygamy in 1890, but did not discontinue the practice until well into the Twentieth Century. Polygamy remains a core part of Mormon doctrine. When the LDS Mormon Church began to actually oppose polygamy around the time of World War I, many 'fundamentalist' Mormons broke from the LDS Mormon Church and continue to assert to the present that they are the 'true' Mormon church because they engage in the practice."
    p.s. Reporting is more than calling the LDS church's PR office and parroting back what they tell you.

    October 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Kim

    I don't think a religion based on a translation of holy golden tablets with the aid of a pair of magical spectacles, all of which have disappeared and never been seen by anyone except Smith, allegedly, that calls for followers to wear magical underwear(shortsleeved in summer) can be taken too seriously by anyone with more than two braincells to rub together

    October 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • David

      Thomas Edison said that one man's religion is another man's belly laugh.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Melissa

      "Magical Underwear" is always short sleeved. They do not change according to the season, though if individuals would prefer to wear longer garments for comfort they are available. And they are not proposed to be "magical." They are sacred to members of the church.

      Eleven other witnesses saw the golden plates. Although some dissented from the church later, none ever denied having seen them.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  9. Dikran

    Fact #11 Mormonism is a CULT with a false Jesus and a false belief system that will take you to a false heaven (hell).

    October 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • wrong

      All religions are cults. Please keep the god, satan and hell topics away from children. Let kids be kids, without the brainwashing.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  10. j

    while they were initially persecuted, the mormons also killed a bunch of unarmed people at the mountain meadows massacre... so their origin really isn't much of a sob story....

    October 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  11. DAMN

    Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil? (man is the force for good or evil. Religion is only a Tool) and Can you be Good without God? ...Goodbye America!!!

    October 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  12. Yoredwie

    God's will be done, not my will. May the Lord will be done, and not mine.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  13. krow101

    It's an off-shoot mythology of Christianity. Next question?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • sarahfailn

      and that is all we really need to know. Sad that others don't get it.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  14. Donald Hodge

    No one mentions that the book of mormon says that a group of jews left what is now israel when the babylonian exile occurred about 2600 years ago and arrived by boat in the western hemisphere and that all the aborigines of pre columbian times are descendents of jews. There have been no archaelogical finds to support this. No finds of iron making, the wheel, potters wheel, or livestock that jews knew during that era. The book is bogus

    July 18, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • ken long

      There is plenty of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but most of my testimony of the truthfulness of that book comes from the Holy Ghost. There is less archaeological evidence for the Bible than the Book of Mormon.

      July 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • KC

      Ken Long: You're kidding, right? Have you not done any research into the archaeological evidence relating to the Bible? There are a lot of authoritative works out there, if you'll just take the time to look for them and read them. And can you cite one, just one, bit of archaeological evidence consistent with the Book of Mormon? Please, I'm waiting.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • David

      God hid the elephants and steel smelters and altered the DNA of the Lamanites and Nephites to test our faith. See, that proves it's true. God's ways are not man's ways. Any other theory is ANTI-MORMON and should be disregarded at the outset, before it can even be articulated.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  15. blissDk

    Growing up in a small Utah town that was 99.9%LDS (Mormon) was not pleasant experience for me as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. I was told by children that their parents had told them they could not play with me because I was not Mormon. I remember as a child asking a Mormon child my age if they were Christian, she responded NO! We are Mormon. The trend to say that they are Christian only started about the time that Salt Lake City was in the running for the 2002 winter Olympics. At about the same time I noticed that the ward houses (what they are now calling chapels) started changing the engraved name plates on the buildings from what read “the CHURCH of Jesus Christ of LATTERDAY SAINTS” to " the church of JESUS CHRIST of latter-day saints" I have lived in Utah all my life and have noticed these changes and find it so odd that the LDS church members put up with changes like this without batting an eye. I highly suspect that the LDS church was involved in the 2002 Olympic scandals... but it will never be addressed here. IT would be political and financial suicide. No media in Utah would want to even think about investigating this. The church loved the attention it got with the Olympics and it was shelttered from any fall out. I beleive it hopes it will get more attention and conversions with a Mormon in the white house to push their agendas. The Mormon Church is not a democracy. If one believes their doctrines or not, to me it is a personal choice but I do not trust the Authority of the Church in US politics. It is very self serving. IT has an easily researched history of changing its theology and its history to suit its power needs and monetary wants.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Nona

      No religion is a democracy; if it was it would not be a religion.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  16. Valerie Fulmer

    My *Like* was in reference to the comment by Day Cross. With regards to geneticists, anthropologists, historians, biblical contextual scholars, linguists, etc,, there are Mormons in those fields(including scientists, scholars, and so on) who are able to do their work and research and still have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. The learning of mankind is a process. There is still much to learn. Check out http://www.mormonscholarstestify.org. 🙂

    July 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • sarahfailn

      Perfect?

      "Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says."

      or

      "When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money."

      July 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Melissa

      Sarahfallin–"Women should be silent during meetings??" Where are you getting your information? Women speak in almost every single church meeting, including televised conferences for the entire church.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Mellisa? That's in the bible.

      Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. – 1 Corinthians 14:34

      October 9, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  17. MikeB

    I don't want to join, but can I still get the magic underwear?

    July 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Gort01

      lol...me too

      July 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • sarahfailn

      my gay lover has a pair and he looks fabulous in them.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  18. JJ

    Should have mentioned the mountain meadows massacre

    July 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • sarahfailn

      Morons twist that story to their liking as well.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • ken long

      The Mountain Meadows Massacre was an act of war. It happened in 1857, simultaneous with Johnson's army coming to Utah from the east. The Baker-Fancher emigrants said when they got to California they were going to bring another army up to kill the Mormons. One claimed to have the gun that killed that killed the prophet Joseph Smith, they poisoned two wells and they started an Indian fight. Brigham Young ordered the emigrants preserved at all cost, but there was no communication between SLC and the Iron County Militia. The Massacre was unfortunate, but you need to understand history. Tally up Mountain Meadows with the Mormons killed in New York, Ohio, Illinois and Hans Mill (Missouri), you will see a huge disparity.

      July 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  19. knowledge8

    It is a cult, plain and simple, and I used to like Glenn Beck!

    July 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • rey

      well said! that reason and a couple of others is why i no longer like glen beck

      July 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Nona

      You liked Glen Beck...until you found out he was a Mormon? Pathetic.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  20. Day Cross

    If you aren't afraid of the truth, sit down with some missionaries or local church members and discuss what we believe. Asking a nonmember what we believe is pretty much guaranteed to get erroneous information. Some nonmembers lie, others are simply misinformed, but honestly, why don't you ask a member? You might be surprised at the truth! If you are afraid of the truth, or so cowed by your current religious leaders, that you can't openly ask us what we believe, that should tell you something as well. If we have the truth, you ought to find out. If we don't, don't you owe it to yourself to know the facts? The truth?

    July 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Artist

      One major problem. Your truth is according to men. Forgive me I will wait to hear direct from any of the 1000's of gods out there.

      July 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Cora Judd

      NEVER ask a Mormon what Mormons believe.

      They are restricted to church-published material for all doctrinal and historical instruction. They regard all information that contradicts current Mormon doctrine as "anti-Mormon literature". It doesn't matter that such contradictory information may, and will, come from geneticists, anthropologists, historians, biblical contextual scholars, linguists, etc., etc.

      ALWAYS ask an ex-Mormon if you want to know what Mormons believe,

      July 15, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Valerie Fulmer

      *Like*

      July 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Day Cross wrote, "Some nonmembers lie, others are simply misinformed, but honestly, why don't you ask a member?" R U One? If so then What are your Religious Virtues? I am somewhat of a Christian whereby I find Solemn Festivity within the Wordage of the English Vocabulary. My Faith in their being GOD and Gods and even Goddesses does delflate Christendom's selfishness of but One GOD! As I percieve things, GOD is CREATION's ALLNESS or the UNIVERSE ITSELF. The Gods and Goddesses are manifested within the First Fruits of Fractal Reletivities regarding the microscopic Universes which are camouflaged within every cellular composition of Life Itself.

      "This World is not Christ's Kingdom but His Kingdom is upon the Inside of Life Itself" as is written in the Gospel.

      Many Evangelists fail to Decipher this relative Nuance of Christ's teaching. Getb one a magnifying glass and then a microscope and top it off with getting a Telescope. You may notice that the inside of things are exactly what the Outside is trying to Emulate.

      July 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • blissDk

      I have read the book of Mormon. I have sat politely with Mormon missionaries and listened and asked questions. Most of what they had to say was verbatim out of their missionary texts. Some have seemed shocked that I could have read the book of Mormon and not had "a burning in my bosom” that it was true. I have always wondered why that if the book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith in the early 1800s why he used a vernacular that was straight out of the King James version of the bible (1611) rather than the more current vernacular. This and other discrepancies that I have asked politely about are usually avoided.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • David

      I will join the chorus of people saying: if you want to find out about this religion ask someone who is disaffected. Ask an ex-mormon. The missionaries are a couple of 19 and 20 year old kids who think they are on God's mission to convert as many people as possible, and use Mormon church propaganda as though it were . . . well, the word of God.

      October 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Chris

      I'm thinking about taking a trip to France. I think I'll ask someone from Mexico how it is over there.

      October 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Wilma

      What you have written could be applied to ANY religion.

      October 8, 2011 at 4:01 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.