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. Sergo Jean

    Joseph Smith said ;"In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is right to be done? who of all these parties are right;or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and How shall I know it? While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James,first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom,let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. At lenght I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that ask of God. So ,in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt". I do believe he saw two Personages,whose brightness and Glory defy all description,standing above him in the air. I do believe One of them spake unto him,calling him by his name and said,Pointing to the other-This is My beloved Son,Here Him! Joseph Smith said, "so as to be able to speak,than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light,which of all the sects was right-and which I should join.I was answered that I must join none of them,for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight;that those professors were all corrupt; that " they draw near to me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men having a form of godliness,but they deny the power thereof.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  2. Uncle Dave

    In the United Methodist Church, we will not re baptize anyone who has been baptized once in their lives in any Christian denomination. However, we do not accept the baptism of Mormons because theirs is not done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Atheists have their holiday too ... its April first !

    October 9, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • other dave

      more misinformation....exact words from a mormon baptism are " having authority given me of jesus christ I baptize you in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost"

      the only thing the christian denominations are united in is there persecution of the mormon religion

      October 9, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • anny onymus

      sorry in regards to your statement on Mormon baptisms, your statement is false. a Mormon baptism is done "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." so it is probably not the baptism issue why your church does not accept the Mormon baptism.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Sergo Jean

      The commandment to be baptism.It 's one of the principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we must obey.But we need to do it in the right way,He declared Himself,He gave His apostles instructions "Go ye therefore , and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.But Jesus Christ Himself gave them power and authority to do it. He chose His apostles and ordained them so that they could lead his church .St Mark 3 :13-15 ;St.John15:16. I do believe the power the received from Jesus Christ name The Melchizedek Priesthood (Hebrews chapter 1:1-4; 5:4-10) By that power Peter and John come to Samaria and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands The Acts 8:14-25. I do believe the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  3. reddog

    All religions are "cults". This one is no different.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  4. dogs rule

    What difference does it (should it) make what Romney's – or any other candidate's – "religion" is? Or isn't! Didn't we separate church and state a long time ago?? What does a candidate's RELIGION or lack thereof have to do with anything???? Where's this coming from, the Bible Belt? Religion has absolutely no bloody place in politics or in schools. Period.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • itallmatter

      @Dogsrule; It matters a lot. People who are deeply devout in their religious beliefs and opinions will likely base all decisions on how well the decision meshes with their religious laws, rules and regulations. From what I have read, Romney is an elder in his church, and as such, he has obligations to the church that I believe are/ or could be in direct conflict with the role of a national leader. Particularly as POTUS.

      Do some serious research on the religion, read the accounts from people who have left the religion (particularly women) and at least educate yourself before discarding the concerns of others regarding the religious beliefs of a POTUS.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  5. texgil2762

    Wow, maybe like Bill Henrickson on HBO's Big Love, he'll reveal his other wives once he wins the big office. Does he wear the Eternal Underwear like most Mormons do? Ask Marie and Donny Osmond if they're voting for him; that's really all that matters. Coffee, anyone?

    October 9, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  6. booboo

    The Value Voters Summit speaker who said that Mormonism is a cult was right - although he left out that all religions are cults that just happen to have attained some level or respect through their soft-selling their crazy sides to the rest.

    The speaker who said that Mormons don't deserve first amendment protections, however, was the bigot. Calling Mormonism a cult is NOT bigotry. It's the truth. I would love the chance to "debate" a Mormon on the veracity of their beliefs. I did have a ball when a couple of their missionaries came to my house but they were just kids who obviously barely knew their own beliefs.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  7. Jabeezala

    I think Simon and Garfunkel said it best, "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest". And I am LDS. Guess we'll see who gets it right when we die. Good luck to everyone, I know I can use all the help I can get.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  8. TheDudeAbides

    Hey, I just found some ancient scrolls, older than the old testament. I have deciphered them and will now create a new religion, which nullifies Judaism, Christianity, Islam and all the rest.

    How do you know I have done this? Why, because I said so!

    Why would you even ask?

    October 9, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • itallmatter

      exactly:) But, I am starting my own religion with a new and modernized bible. It will have a creation story, an exodus story and an apocolyspe stor!! Should be a great read, don't ya think!! All it needs to be considered a religion and not a cult is to grow increasinly in followers over the years, sponsor a few bloody wars in it's name, and have others perform some missionary takeovers of the uninitiated and I will be able to call it a religion!!

      October 9, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  9. unowhoitsme

    Another cult...beware! It will only lead you astray!

    October 9, 2011 at 7:15 am |
    • Go Hoos

      Is that you, Perry?

      October 9, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • ComSenseWiz

      Any religion will lead you astray from common sense. Deal in reality and resist fiction.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  10. Edward Andrews

    The Mormon Family of Gods
    God: Father of all Gods, he has a flesh-and-bone body.—Doctrine and Covenants 130:22.
    Elohim: Sometimes referred to as an individual. Also described as a council of Gods who organized the earth.—Doctrine and Covenants 121:32; The Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 4:1; Journal of Discourses, Volume I, page 51.
    Jesus: God and Creator of the whole earth, the Savior.—3 Nephi 9:15; 11:14.
    Jehovah: The Old Testament name for Jesus.—Compare Mormon 3:22; Moroni 10:34; and Book of Mormon index.
    Trinity: The Godhead of three separate, distinct spirit personages, Father and Son, of flesh and bone, and Holy Ghost.—Alma 11:44; 3 Nephi 11:27.
    Adam: Jesus’ helper in the creation. Brigham Young stated: “Our father Adam came into the garden of Eden . . . and brought Eve, one of his wives. . . . He is our Father and our God.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume I, page 50, 1854 Edition) After his sin, Adam became earth’s first Christian. (The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:64-66; Ensign, January 1994, page 11) He is “the Ancient of days” (Doctrine and Covenants 116) and is the literal physical Father of Jesus.—Journal of Discourses, Volume I, page 51.
    Michael: Another name for Adam, the archangel.—Doctrine and Covenants 107:54.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • ComSenseWiz

      I'm really glad you provided such key data as it has so much meaning to intelligent life. It ranks right up there with the verbal diarrhea from the Taliban.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Chuck

      This is the radical departure from the bible they mention in the article. Notice how many doctrines are supported only by other Mormon doctrines.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  11. Go Hoos

    Things to add to the list about Mormons: We believe that faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, is the foundation and only way to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

    We also believe the 10 commandments are not the 10 Suggestions. We believe in the importance of family, of being good citizens, of loving and serving our neighbor, we believe each person has the right to practice their religion as they best see fit, we believe in obeying the laws of the land.

    We invite all to come (unannounced if you want) to worship with us on Sunday mornings, to see for yourselves what we believe and what we teach.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Christfollower

      AND you believe that you will attain your own God status and become a God yourself right? This is not Christianity!

      October 9, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • ComSenseWiz

      I'll stop by to worship with other Mormons right after I get back from blowing a baboon in Somalia.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • other dave

      You may disagree with the mormon belief of salvation/exaltation but you have no evidence to the contrary. The Bible states that the righteous will receive 'all the father hath', will be 'joint-heirs with christ' and will sit in the throne with the father. Sounds to me like there is more going on here and that the mormon belief is more likely than sitting around doing nothing.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  12. rjp3

    The Mormon Church is a MONEY MAKING outift. FACT.
    They tell people that after death they can be a GOD equal to Jesus' Father .... who is just one of MILLIONS of GODS ... oh yeah The Devil was Jesus' brother ... and black people were his descendents.

    Oh yeah -- want to save your ancestors souls and let them become a GOD too. Just pay the Mormon Corporation a set number of dollars per soul.

    Come on people to each their own but for CNN to whitewash this very twisted belief system is just PC Right Wing fake news.

    October 9, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Sergo Jean

      I do believe Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd, He gained power over the death from his Father.He proclaims :"I am the Son of God. I and my Father are One. and He answers the Jews when they took up "stones again to stone Him. He answered them,Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? the Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not ; but for "blasphemy ;and because that thou, being a man ,makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods (St John chapter 10:30-33) I do believe on this earth, if we keep all God commandments, place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized,our sins are forgiven through the atonement of Jesus Christ. He said I will give to you eternal life,and you will be with Me and my Father for all Eternity. I do believe if you are in the kingdom of God ,you will be something or whatever you decide,but you have to make a choice right now on this earth, be with Jesus Christ or the angels of the devil.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  13. Frank

    The list of "facts" conveniently left out that blacks were finally admitted into the white priesthood very recently: 1978.

    October 9, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Huh...

      Why is this one of the first things that people mention? This article was written due to a comment made by a Southern Christian Pastor. Last time I checked the Christian churches in the south are some of the most segregated bigoted people ever. This isn't exactly a group know for their racial tolerance.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  14. Will_H

    It's just a cult that survived because it didn't try and get its members to commit mass suicide. The more I read into the "religion" the less I can comprehend how people believe in it.

    October 9, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • itallmatter

      me either, the Book of Mormom is a poor hack of a bible, written by a rather uneducated, bored teenager (YES, teenager) who must have had some amount of CHARISMA to gain the following of other dissillusioned, uninspired, uneducated folks of the time. Yup, pretty much sums up how 'religions' are formed. Aslo how dictatorships are formed. It's all born out of fear of what we don't understand and can't control...want to understand the meaning of life? Go live it, it will come to you!!! Live before you die and you may not fear death so much.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Cdc

      Even jesus's apostles denied him when they personally witnessed his miracles. I guess that it explains why someone like you would also not see the truth. I guess well see you in heaven . I'll wave at you from above and smile when you finally see the truth. Oh by the way Jesus loved everyone and never judged. Ya who is a Christian?

      October 10, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  15. JewGoneSouth

    Wow, this article is a sanitized version of the Book of Mormon. They left out critical stuff about Smith and his stone seer practices as well as the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" translation of gold tablets that vanished when he was done. Oh and the entire Jesus in Jefferson, Missouri bit...it's all complete lunacy and should have no place in governmental elections. Who would vote for someone who professes faith in Zeus?

    October 9, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • How

      Stone seer, Christ in Jefferson?? Crazy thinking... come on people wouldn't it be a lot easier to think that God only talked to a very select few of his children at a very specific point in the history of the world. That he is limited to only performing wierd "miracles" in the time of the bible. God died, disappeared and pulled his power away from his children after that. Wouldn't that just make a lot more sense?

      October 9, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • spencer Mac

      I dont want to believe in a boy who found the word of god on gold plates on a hill, I want to hear about an old man who found the word of god in a burning bush on a mountain!! If its gonna be crazy I want it my crazy danget!

      October 9, 2011 at 5:17 am |
    • TheDudeAbides

      Yeah, and what about when he had to travel to Mount Doom to throw the One Ring into the volcano? They conveniently left that out.

      Oh, wait, wrong fable. Sorry. I get confused.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  16. Todd Morgan

    every religion including Mormon attains members because people feel SPIRITUALLY connected to the faith. Any person that is religious can EASILY defend their religion because they are not there because they HAVE to be. thay are there because the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit testifies to them. If you do believe in God, and you have a religion, you are a very special person. Most people believe in nothing and wander around this world not knowing their purpose or their ultimate destiny.

    1000 years from now nobody will even know who we were, but God has a plan for each of us. He created the world and made man in his image

    October 9, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • Me

      Really wish that these people that believe in nothing wouldn't feel it their purpose in life to tear down those that do believe in something. Please people, if you don't believe in something or even if you do, just share what you believe. Share what you feel would actually make believers better people.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Dave

      Go to Africa; witness the starvation, disease, and genocide. Come back home, then report to me whether or not you still believe in god.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  17. krats1976

    For those who might be reluctant to look at LDS-owned websites, BBC has a pretty thorough description of the church & it's teachings here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/mormon/

    I'm not going to say they have everything 100% correct, but they do a much better job than this particular article.

    October 9, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  18. SD Girl

    I am so sick and tired of hearing all this drivel about religion! Who cares? I don't! Can you get our nation out of this funk, stabilize the economy, produce jobs, get us back on the right track?! All you anti-Mormon, Christian fanatics need to go crawl under a rock!! You are the biggest hypocrites!

    October 9, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Todd Morgan

      I couldn't agree more. I am LDS but I like Herman Cain, and I am undecided as of yet on a candidate. I like some things I hear from Mitt, but I also like some things I hear from Herman Cain and to a lesser extent Perry. Whatever the case, the American people should choose a president that they think will fix the country and protect its interests.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  19. Todd Morgan

    The level of wealth of lack of wealth has nothing to do with people converting to our church. We have many doctors, dentists, millionaires, both poor and rich. In the bible that Lord was clear that that many of the poor would accept the gospel more readily than the rich. "it is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of the needle" but if God wanted you to be a Mormon he could witness that to you and you would become a member. God is powerful. Any person of FAITH knows how powerful God is in their life!

    October 9, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • What If

      Todd Morgan, "if God wanted you to be a Mormon he could witness that to you and you would become a member."

      What in the heck are you babbling about with this statement??? Total gibberish.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • tallulah13

      Either that, or you're deeply delusional, Todd.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • Mark Wolfson

      Uh, until someone can offer absolute empirical proof of his existence, I say there is no God of Abraham. And I found it interesting that in the "10 Things About Mormonism" above, they failed to mention that Mormons believe that through good deeds they can one day be Gods of their own worlds.

      Man religion is some funny, funny stuff.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  20. jr

    Can you actually prove there is no God....

    October 9, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      Can you prove there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster?

      October 9, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • Pirate Jim

      I was Touched by His Noodley Greatness.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • TheDudeAbides

      Can you prove there is no Santa Claus?

      October 9, 2011 at 7:28 am |
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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.