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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. EJM

    Mormons are not considered Christians because their understanding of the Trinity is different than Catholics and Protestants. That is the real dividing point between those who are LDS and those who are Christians.

    Another issue I have is that there is zero archeological evidence of anything written in the Book of Mormon nor is their DNA evidence linking Jews or peoples of the Middle East with the indigenous populations of North and South America prior to the 1541 which is claimed by the LDS Church.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Melissa

      For those wanting to know more about the study by one man of prophetic, scriptural, historical, climatological, archaeological, social, cultural and DNA evidence supporting the Book of Mormon doctrine that Jews and other peoples migrated to the American continent, see Rod Meldrum's web site: bookofmormonevidence.com.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  2. dude

    "Joseph Smith published a translation of writings he said he found and translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English." Before this, he was imprisoned twice in Vermont for counterfeiting currency... The one witness to his "revelation" later recanted under oath...

    June 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Ken

      Dead Wrong! Get your facts straight.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • EJM

      @Ken Dead right. Get your facts straight.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Chazzwick

      There were 11 witnesses that saw the gold plates, none of whom recanted their witness. I'm curious of your source for what you stated.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • yehdude

      Dead right, inconvenient maybe, but dead right!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      @Ken

      1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcyzkd_m6KE

      2. On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr. founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has long been the target of criticism by critics of every stripe (secular and sectarian, Protestant and Catholic, you name it). One particular criticism relates to an arrest and trial of Joseph Smith in South Bainbridge, New York in 1826. At lease three non-identical (and, in some respects, mutually contradictory) versions of the trial exist, but in the early 1970s a Reverend Wesley Walters, an ardent critic of the LDS Church, brought some new information to light, as discussed in a 1972 BYU Studies article written by Marvin S. Hill (footnotes omitted):

      Reverend Wesley P. Walters of the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois, discovered some records in the basement of the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, which he maintains demonstrate the actuality of the 1826 trial and go far to substantiate that Joseph Smith spent part of his early career in southern New York as a money digger and seer of hidden treasures. A periodical in Salt Lake City which heralded Walters's findings said they "undermine Mormonism" and repeated a statement by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers, "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith." etc., etc.
      See : http://byulaw.blogspot.com/2005/09/joseph-smiths-arrest-records-found.html

      What exactly is "dead wrong" about these things ?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  3. CLW

    When Mormons come to my home this is what they simply are unable to appropriately respond to:
    Given that: "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." Well actually he said an angel appeared to him and provided him with this new message/teaching/gospel.

    My response: The church of Christ was started around AD33 in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The apostle Paul has already clearly spoken on this matter saying, " I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! " Gal 1:6-10

    If people would carefully study their Bibles they would be able to determine which are the true churches of Christ and which are not if the doctrine presented is in accordance with the true and consistent teaching of the Word of God. Do not be deceived.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Ken

      The Book of Mormon does not contradict the bible in any way. It does support and clarify some doctrine that is not clear in the bible because of the errors of man (not of God) IE translation, human decision making etc. If the doctrines in the Bible were very clear, there would be one fold and one religion (not a thousand different "Christian" churches). So MR. CLW even among "Christians" there is no clear understanding of correct doctrine. Therefore, to better understand the TRUE intentions and doctrine of a loving Heavenly Father to His children, he has decided to provide some clarification through the Book of Mormon and continued revelation of Prophets here on earth. For more information – go to a better source of true information. Read the Book of Mormon if you REALLY want to know and/or go to http://www.mormon.org.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • CLW

      Ken, Thanks for your offer but I know better i.e. to go to the Word of God. You are very typical of every single Mormon I have met. Their first approach is to indicate that the Biblical scriptures are insufficient and that they are somehow tainted, imperfect, lack credibility etc. and that is why we need a book of Mormon. This is completely contradictory to what the Bible itself says, "...His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" 1 Pter 1:3...so why would I need your book of Mormon? The Word of God testifies that it is the Truth – John 17:17. Furthermore, "Let God be true and every man a liar" Romans 3:4. So I will trust in the truth and veracity of the Scriptures than any man and his religion. The Bible teaches that there is "One Body, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism" Eph 4:4 and this Body, the Church is the one found in the Bible and the only one existing to this day. Paul has already spoken and told us not to believe ANY other man who brings another Gospel and here you go defending the Mormon church created almost 1800 years after Christ established His church in AD33, isn't that a contradiction? My loving Heavenly Father has explained in His Word how to enter His church and how to avoid false teachers and doctrines like Mormonism. Furthermore, we ought not to believe everyone who claims to be a Christian for "not everyone who says Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven."~ Matt 7:21

      P.S. I am a former Roman Catholic FYI

      June 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • NoBS

      @Ken So explain the many, many revisions of the Book of Mormon. And god changing his mind on polygamy and blacks holding the priesthood. The Mormon god is incredibly fickle and prone to making mistakes, apparently. Maybe he's a new guy, one of the brethren who took over, eh, brother?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  4. The Half Baked Lunatic

    Know why you always take two mormons with you when you go fishing?

    If you take just one, he'll drink all your beer!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Tomtom

      AND, you don't want to leave the other one home w/ your daughter!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  5. PPeter

    I must say as a protestant christian that morman church like the jewish religion, though small in numbers produce some very fine successful people. I am sure their religion has a lot to do with it.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  6. Chris Penman

    This is one of the most ridiculous articles about Mormons I have ever seen. I have seen anti-mormon websites and literature that does a better job of properly explaining Mormonism. I find the whole article and video quite lame, espcially for CNN. None of "the top-ten" explain Mormonism at all. The corresponding comments on this board that I have read so far are even more ignorant. I am seriously laughing...especially at the atheist's comments. A planet called Kolob? Seriously. That is not a doctrine of the church. The other vicous rumors he/she is trying to spread is all false. Do your research before you make false claims...especially because, as you say, "don't personally care". Whether or not I am a Christian is not really a concern of mine. I believe in Christ and that might be where it ends as far as comparison to other religious sects that claim to be Christian. Most Christian churches have become a real joke in the last 50 years or so and none of them have true doctrine at all and know nothing of actual moral and ethical issues. They just go with what's popular. Most churches these days only preach inspirational messages that I can get from the daily horoscopes for free from my local newspaper. They preach "all is well" and how we are all saved by simiply donating some money and wanting it bad enough regardless of the way you live. (Joel Osteen for example and that other lady that is on TV every Sunday morning) They have no idea what it means to be saved...they just use the word. For the record, Mormons don't wear pioneer clothes anymore and only wore them back then because they were actual pioneers. For all of you Mormon haters, I get it and I understand your hatred, we always have been hated so go ahead and stay on the hating Mormon bandwagon, (there is nothing you can do to stop us, but for those of you who actually don't know about Mormons, but would like to know just to know even...I don't even care if you're ever baptized...do your freakin' research and ask the right people...don't just agree blindly to some jerk that knows nothing about it.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • saraha

      Uh, yeah, the Kolob thing is taught by the church. As a former mormon, I know that to be true. And completely ridiculous.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  7. The Half Baked Lunatic

    Gotta admire any religion who's motto is "I don't care how many you bring, just Bring 'em Young!"

    June 24, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • dude

      Their history with women is like that of voting in Chicago: early and often.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  8. James

    I agree with Andrew’s comment below that the Articles of Faith provide a good summary of our basic beliefs. One correction on Dan Gilgoff’s CNN article, where it reads, "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.”

    Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Joseph Smith was the prophet who restored the original Church of Jesus Christ to the earth, which is why the Church bears His name and why the practice of proxy baptisms for the dead was restored. I am also thankful we have the Book of Mormon, which stands as another testament of Jesus Christ and was written primarily by ancient prophets who lived upon the American continents. The Book of Mormon was prophesied about in the Bible by prophets and Christ himself (see for instance Ezekiel 37:16-17 and John 10:16). In addition, we have a living prophet on the earth today, another key element of our faith.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • BurstBubble

      You have a profit today, and it say in 3 Nephi 14:15.." Beware of false prophet who come to you in sheep' clothing, but inwordly they are ravening wolves." Anybody that believes what the Mormon churches teaches about gays and lesbians is just messed up and believing lies. The church in it own scriptures talks about warnings to the church to be careful about the leadership in the later days. People from the church donated money for they proposition in California. What about that? Are you still blind sheep?

      October 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  9. Richard

    This article is clearly biased. The correct name is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", not "The Church of Latter Day Saints". Use it thoughout your article CNN.

    If any readers have any doubt that Mormons are in fact Christians, then you should attend one of their services. All of our teachings and literature center around Jesus Christ and his atonement. Mormons are Christians. There really is nothing to debate here. An BTW, a recent survey proved that Mormons know more about the Bible than people of any other faith.

    Finally, please do not assume that Mitt Romney represents all Mormons. I am a lifelong member and I am not voting for him. Ron Paul 2012!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • GreenGrl

      Actually the study was conducted by the Pew Research Center and found that Atheist and Agnostics know more about religion followed by jews and then mormons.

      The more you know...the less you believe!!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  10. Steve Thomas

    As an atheist, I can tell you that religion, at best, is absurd. Mormonism is the crowning achievement of this absurdity. However, CNN should be ashamed of this subtle piece of subterfuge. Those are not Mormons but FLDS, and your descriptions and explanations are childish, at best. I guess truth no longer matter. Moving people away from voting for a particular candidate is the new job of the media.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • The Half Baked Lunatic

      Thank you Steve, well said!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • john

      just remember that your belief system is also an opinion

      June 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Nathan L

      I think Scientology may be more absurd.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Righton

      I'm starting to think that atheism is religion for people who can't see that the world does not revolve around themselves. I've never seen such a large group of narcissistic, back-patters since I watched 2 seconds of the Democratic National Convention.

      "Yay, you hate God, too! We should hang out."
      "Yeah, that would be cool. Maybe we can watch the Jon Stewart show."
      "Awesome, I'll send you a message on my smart phone b/c I'm sooooo cool."

      June 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • john

      righton. they are just as bad as any pentecostal priest, they just wont admit it.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • GreenGrl

      In response to John....atheism is NOT a belief system. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. We do not "believe" anything without proof. There are things we know and things we do not know. I freely admit that there are many unknowns in the universe. You may assign a "belief" to something without proof, but do not assume that for me. The argument that atheism is like religion is simply bogus! But why should I expect logic from any adult who believes in imaginary friends.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Righton

      Honestly, that just sounds like jealousy to me. I love my smartphone, I also like hanging out with like-minded people, I just don't need to get a big group of us together, herd ourselves into a building and told what to believe to be like-minded and then told what we have to do to stay that way.

      Also John Stewart is hilarious and the DNC and the RNC are the same farce.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Steve Thomas

      It is astonishing to me how many people there are who try to place non-belief in terms of belief. Atheism is not a religion any more than non-stamp collecting is a hobby. Atheism is a lack of belief and nothing more. Atheists reject religion or belief in God for a lack of evidence. Remember, the burden of proof is on the believer for they are the ones who are making the claim that God exists. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to imply that a belief is on par with a lack of belief. It just goes to show how blinkered the religious mind actually is.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  11. Andrew M.

    I've been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my entire life. I served a mission when I was 19. I have served in numerous church callings throughout my life including 6 years as a Bishop. Never received a nickle for my time and I would do it all again. I love Jesus Christ. I love my wife and children. I'm a hard working, self reliant, contributing member of society and teach my children to respect all people of every faith... even if they call us brainwashed, non-christian, devil worshiping, ignorant, hateful, polygamists. Turn the cheek and love one another is our motto. Serve more and judge less. Though we are spit upon, cursed constantly, and falsely judged by the media and society at large, we are a happy people who love our neighbors and would give our coat to anyone who asks.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  12. NR5

    There must be something to this mormon church. All the members I have associated with throughout my life seem to have such positive outlooks on life and seem to find such great peace even in troubled times.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  13. john316

    I say let's hear it for jack279.....get rid of the tax exemption and then the truth will win out....believers will fall down running to give money if it's all that it says...then they don't need the exemption .... this goes for ALL the organized religions...especially for their interference in politics ....I'd like a real tally of the money spent on anti choice, anti gay etc campaigns......don't enquiring minds want to know........to see where all their weekly contributions go? Let's try it.....

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • john

      politics IS a religion.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Inquisitor

      Yes, enquiring minds inquire. That's why they read the "National Enquirer."

      June 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  14. Rosit

    I have 2 issues with Mormons. 1 – They feel they are Christians, but not only Christians, the only true Christians. 2 – And the most disturbing is their belief that God was once a Man, and that they too will become a god and rule over their own planet. As a Christian, I believe I will live in the presents of God; Mormon as god. God makes it very clear that there are no others and will be no others. Not to be confused with the trinity (father, son and holly host) which are all God – one God. Water can be ice, liquid or steam, but it’s still water (H2O).

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Henry

      Pretty much every branch of Christianity has the #1 issue. Your post suggests that you are no different.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Christian the Christian

      I really hope I get to live around God's PRESENTS too! I really want an iPhone 5 and I bet God could give me that present if I repent enough.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Christian the Christian

      I never new the Holly Ghost was female.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  15. isac amaral

    YOU EXPLAINED MORAMANISM . COULD YOU ALSO EXPLAIN SEVENTHDAY ADVENTISM?

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Danny Rand

      SDA = protestant Christians who follow only the bible and keep the Sabbath. Pretty simple.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • njemnu

      They sound the same to you?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  16. christ jones

    All religions are CULTS and should TAXED and PERSECUTED accordingly.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • john

      whatever you say mr hitlerz

      June 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Error

    Rights fact CNN, but wrong picture!! If I had to guess what you have pictured are Warren Jeff's group, not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Isn't it wonderful that in the great tapestry of America everyone is allowed to practice their own religion in peace and without criticism? Unless of course you're an atheist. Or a muslim. And we sort of like to pick on Catholics as well. And non-mainstream protestants are weird anyway. And of course only conservative republicans really believe in God. And are big-city folk really American?
    Vote Sarah Palin! The ONLY 'REAL American!'

    June 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Laughing

      don't forget about the jews! and the brown people who probably practice hinduism, buddhism, sikhism, ect.... but are lumped with muslims.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  19. Secular Humanist

    Here here, Jack279!

    It's time to tax the CRAP out of churches.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  20. Tom Turner aka TheMormonHammer

    The video and write up is very accurate. BUT-The Church of Latter-day Saints is not a correct short name for our church. We don't call it that or even nickname it that and to some degree we find it offensive because it takes Christ out of the name and this is Christ's church on the earth today. Also there are observant Mormons that don't wear temple garments. They just haven't chosen to go to the temple yet. It may have been better to have said observant Mormons that have taken out their endowments. It's odd to me that when non Mormons talk about or faith, they never mention one of the most beautiful things about us and our faith, patriarchal blessings. It's like God's little road map for your personal life. It's a very beautiful and touching part of being LDS and receiving that. The LDS church is spreading all over the world with temples in China (Hong Kong), Ukraine, and new temples coming in Rome and Kansas City. Missouri has special meaning to us. Thank goodness the church didn't stop there or we would all be farmers. 🙂 he he

    June 24, 2011 at 3:19 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.