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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. Gomez Fabulous

    By their fruits, folks. A Christian is someone who acts as best they can in a way that Christ would have acted. Whether or not you like his politics, they haven't any mud on Romney's personal life... in fact, just the opposite. That's good enough for me. (Doesn't mean I'll vote for him.)

    October 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  2. krats1976

    I have to agree that this article is pretty superficial. If you're going to share brief tidbits about the LDS faith, why not these? 13 Articles of Faith

    1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
    3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
    4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
    6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
    7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
    8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
    9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
    10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
    11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
    12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
    13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

    That's Mormonism 101

    October 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • annewandering

      Perfect reply. Too bad the author of the article didnt look a little farther for what we believe. 😀

      October 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Godfrey

      You forgot about the part with the magic underwear.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  3. Too Little...

    It seems to me if you want factual information about Mormons you'd better get it from them. This article shows all kinds of biases and partial truths. It's kind of pathetic really and seemingly geared to further misconceptions. I think the http://www.mormon.org site has far better information if you want to begin to understand "Mormons."

    October 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Godfrey

      The Southpark episode that explains Mormonism is also helpful.

      Google it.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  4. craig

    11. Believe that the Garden of Eden was in what is present day Missouri
    12. Believe that the Native Americans are dark skinned because they killed one of the lost tribes of Israel and God punished them by burning them. Turning them into "red" skins.

    October 8, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • party

      13. Mormons deny the Trinity, or at least do not define it in the same way as the majority of Christians do.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Wrong!

      Jeez, that's an ignorant post. At least get it right, dodo.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  5. Jayson

    First- If you would like to know more about the LDS church, ask someone who goes regularly. Or me. madson_o_chato@yahoo.com (please don't spam me)
    Second- this is all geared toward the political season. Seperation of church and state. But if you MUST know, 'Mormons' are Christian. Period.
    Third- Get over yourselves and your hatred. Our country was founded on principles of tolerance and acceptance. People can believe in what they will. Just because someone believes something different than you does not make them a 'cult.'

    October 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Ken

      A cult by definition has a single figure at the top of its heirarchy (usually who claims to speak the word of God directly) by that definition, Catholics are a cult, but Mormons are not.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Wrong!

      Ken, "cult" is just another label that doesn't mean anything. Unfortunately, most people are too stupid or too ignorant to find out truth for themselves, but would rather believe sound bites from some talking heads on newsertainment shows or demagogues whose power and influence will be diminished if their followers started looking for truth themselves. It's easier to be led by the nose than to learn to walk using your own two feet. Just ask Pat Robertson. He knows everything. 😛

      October 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Chris

      If one does not believe that Jesus and God are the same, 2 forms of the same deity, then you have already veered from the "Christian" faith. Simply saying Jesus is the Son of God, and not accepting that He is God is considered an erring of faith in the Christian Church, both Catholic and Protestant.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Ken

      Chris,
      Jesus never said he was God. He said many times that he was the son of God. Are you and your Dad the same guy?

      October 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  6. Chuck

    I thihk there is much more to Mormonism to indicate that it is not a Christian denomination than what this article indicates.
    The whole article was very superficial.

    October 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Lee R.

      ur momma is superficial!! ohhh!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Ken

      Chuck,
      I have had the same problems explaining it to my students in regard to Catholicism. The word Christian simply means "followers of Christ" by that definition, cults like Mormons and Catholics are still Christian as long as the central figure of their religion is still Christ.

      I hope that helps.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  7. joejo

    and christians dont believe any of that right?

    October 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • gofrey

      yeah, christians didnt believe that even though back when racism was big, they wuld say that god chose whites above all other races

      October 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Pat Robertson

      That's right. Only us Evangelical Christians are Christians. Everybody else belongs to an evil cult. I know because God speaks only to me. Kiss my feet, sinner. Pay me lots of money and buy your way to heaven. Lots of other folks do, so it must be true, right?

      October 8, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  8. DAVID

    Mormonism is also a religion that teaches in its official scriptures that black skin was a curse and a mark of a curse.

    October 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • dopnn

      it might of, but we dont go around telling black people that they are a curse of God, also it doesnt even directly say that that's how Black people were created, i mean with all the wars that happened, shuldnt all the cursed people have been wiped out?

      October 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • gronn

      everything in the book of mormon took place in South America, so why are there black people in Africa?

      October 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud.

      What an ignoramus.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • John S.

      Don't quote something you've never read because there is no part that says that black skin was a curse. The curse was the lost connection with God and the inability to do things in his name. The skin was a mark to distinguish them. Also if you would read The Book of Mormon it says God loves them equally!

      October 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Chris

      They also believe an ancient civilization, the lost tribe of Israel, crossed the ocean and built a huge civilization here. The Nephites and Jebusites. They also believe that Elohim (God) is the god of this world, and that Jesus and Satan competed to be the savior of the human race, with Jesus winning in the end. When the war erupted in heaven, Satan was cast out, as were his followers, whose skin was changed to black as an everlasting curse and sign of their sinfulness. Mormons believe that you can become your own god, through belief in the savior, Jesus and that your spiritual family will populate another world somewhere. Now, does that sound like Christianity?

      October 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • John S.

      Oh Chris, how little you know of Christian history. Many of the early Christian teachers (from the time near the Apostles) taught many of those same doctrines! Look up some of the teachings of Origen (184-254AD) and you will see that he taught many of those doctrines and quoted the Apostles.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  9. samuel g.

    moat of the crap that is posted on here about Mormonism is false, i dont know why people love to waste time posting dumb comments instead of becoming a good samaritan living and trying to make the best of their life.

    October 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • DAVID

      Its not false. I read the book of MOrmon. It has a lot of racist stuff.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud.

      David, you're an idiot.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  10. smtpd

    Why are Mormons always attacked?? i mean they're not doing anything wrong, on the contrary, they follow the word of God a lot more than do Christians or Jews of other religions. i've seen and met with a ton of christian who do drugs/drink, do adultery, and commit worse felonies. so should i start calling out other religions that instead of helping spread the word of Christ, spend most of their money on advertising how LDS are bad. so until someone comes out with a good reason to why i should start attacking Mormons, then as of this moment, i think the people who are b it ch ing, are somewhat stupid and should probably try using their time more efficiently

    October 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Frank

      A little hypocritical there no? I have several cousins that are LDS and grew up around many more...lemme tell you this, I know several mormons that drink...use drugs....are or have been adulterous...they are no more immune to the evils of the world than anyone else...

      October 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • tanner froy

      thats true, but i still ask shuld i start b it ch ing about other religions? because i dont see the difference between mormons and christians

      October 8, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  11. DK

    I grew up here in the land of Zion"Utah". I'm 37 and graduated Mormon seminary. Some of the key points that was pound in my head was the following: 1) You must marry another Mormon so he/she is guaranteed a ticket to heaven. 2) You must baptize your kids so they also have a ticket to heaven. 3) Gays were considered sick and can be treated. 4) The Devil is everywhere! 5) Mormonism is the only true religion and have the only true prophet. 6) the world is only five thousand years old. 7) After Jesus resurrection, he came down to south america and taught the natives......................I can go on for days what the church teaches that is inconsistent with science, history, Christianity...........etc

    October 8, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • jmeservy

      I hope all of those things are true. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of the teachings of that church I am happily married to the love of my life. I attended college and learned a second language. I visit my neighbors and don't put too much stock into what I read on the internet because I was taught to value honor, the Savior Jesus Christ, and light and truth. I'm pleased and grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to read the Book of Mormon every day. I am grateful for such an experience.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • *frank*

      Was Jesus smoking coca leaves down there in South America? Much would be explained if so!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud.

      DK...must have graduated you to get you out of there. You obviously didn't learn anything. LMAO!

      October 8, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  12. orly

    mormonism is offshoot of freemasonry, its an evil satanic cult

    October 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Frank

      whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Hardly...

      October 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Lee R.

      ur momma is an evil cult!!!! ohhhhhhhhh!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  13. Joebird

    mormon.org

    October 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  14. Rob

    exmormon.org

    October 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • C57

      LDS.org

      October 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Pamela Parizo

      Rob, I hear you. I tried Mormonism. Mormons don't say it right out, but they believe God the Father was once a man which is NEVER even hinted at in the Bible. They believe in multiple Gods, and that man can become a God. I don't see anywhere that Jesus Christ adhered to any of these beliefs. Mormons try to pass themselves off as mainstream, but is it any wonder that the author of the Twilight Series is Mormon?

      October 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud.

      Uh, Pamela...you're not very bright, are ya? The "Twilight" series was written by someone who happens to be LDS, you moron. That's all it has to do with it. You really need to pull your head outta your backside before you hurt yourself.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  15. K Karson

    exmormon.org

    October 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • C57

      LDS.org. Really better to research it yourself from a reliable source, than to relive someone's disgruntled experience. Make up your own mind and form your own opinion, or read about someone else's mind and adopt their opinion–because of their unique experience.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  16. Judy

    Isn't it odd that the Mormon website says absolutely nothing about the very secretive and strange beliefs and practices of the Mormon religion. Many of us know some very fine people who are Mormons, but it is the spirit that is behind this religion that is a lying, deceitful spirit, and many, many have been caught in its trap. They have also been deceived into thinking that the secretive beliefs and practices are "sacred," so these things are never discussed openly. Mormons keep a public profile that is very much like any Bible believing Christian church (which is what you'll see on their website). New converts do not find out the beliefs that have no relationship to Christianity, and are anti-Christ, until much later.
    There are books on Amazon that reveal the truth, such as "The Morman Mirage...a former member looks at the Mormon Church Today," and "The God Makers: A Shocking Expose of what the Mormon Church Really Believes," If you're thinking of investigating the Mormon religion further, start here.

    October 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Randy

      well spoken , any one can research the real foundation of this cult and see that it is VERY different from Christianity .Romney is scared to death of his beliefs being known

      October 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Cindy

      14000000 people around the world are decieved into believing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? That the church they joined that is called the Church of JESUS CHRIST is actually antichristian? I don't think so. Why don't you spend more time praying and less time critisizing how other people worship. It's not Christian to call someone names and to judge them. Christ said judge not less ye be judged. He also said by their fruits you shall know them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has good people that live good lives, as you mentioned in your post. Good Christian people should be building each other up and supporting positive values, not tearing each other down.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Ian

      Judy must have been dumped by a Mormon when she was in high school. Don't worry Jud...somebody will love you one day!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Scott

      As an alternative one could read "The Book of Mormon" and decide for themselves whether the spirit you feel while reading it comes from God or if it's "lying" and "deceitful." Of course, people like Judy will tell you not to read it because you'll be deceived. When someone tells me that I can't help but let them know that I'm able to decipher good and evil for myself. It's an ability I was born with and it's served me pretty well so far. The people who write those books she suggested are using the excuse of being deceived to save face. They couldn't possibly be responsible for any of these bad experiences they've had, could they?

      Also, anybody who would like to is invited to pray for me out of that deep sense of superiority you get from being "real" Christians. I figure it can't hurt at all.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • tiredof this

      Regarding Judy's post: I (a member of the LDS faith) read the god-makers and a couple of other anti books for kicks. (sick kicks, it turns out). If you want sensationalized gimicks and lies, read that material. It left me laughing and shaking my head. If you want the truth about "mormon secrets", read the book of Mormon and study the doctrine in its entirety– but it takes more than a cursory attempt. I'm always amazed at the ridiculous things people say about our church, and how they consider themselves "experts" because they read an anti-mormon book or watched a movie.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Gomez Fabulous

      Judy, why would you read "shocking exposes" instead of making friends with a Mormon and sincerely asking them what they believe? Makes no sense.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Other Worlds.

      That's because they aren't secretive and strange, dear. They're considered "sacred", but if you simply ask a Mormon about them, they will be happy to tell you. Unfortunately, it's easier for most people to just assume something than to go to the source to find out the truth.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud.

      Randy, you're an idiot.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Godfrey

      Watching Mormons and Christians argue about religion is like watching two mentally retarded people fight over who is more intelligent.

      The answer: neither.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  17. Roger

    Lee, Jean Luc Piccard is better than Kirk ! Everyone knows that !

    October 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Lee von Canada

      Touche

      October 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  18. troy

    You forgot that, until it became PC for them to continue, Mormons firmly believe any non-white was born with the Mark of Cain, and thus deemed to be poisoned by the blood of Satan. Essentially, they believed non-whites were evil. Do your research, CNN.

    October 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Joebird

      I'm black, Mormon, and I can't stop laughing at your comment. At least you were good for a laugh!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • *frank*

      You have a peculiar sense of what's humorous.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Keith

      Absolutely correct. Any religion that one days states that I was born with the Mark of someone that makes me inherently evil, but then changes with the times when they realize they are missing out on a significant money source – will always have my scorn.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • product503

      Not doctrine. David O McKay said so. let it go.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  19. Roger

    You cannot fix stupid.

    October 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  20. Lee von Canada

    All religion is make believe, I watch you, (In the U.S.) and can't help but to compare this argument to whether the old captain Kirk is better then the new one. It's all fiction.

    October 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Is that because you have no news channels of your own to watch and comment on?God bless

      October 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Sid

      herbert juarez is a spineless coward.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:31 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.