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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. Varan

    Nothing about the Mountain Meadows massacre?

    October 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Veritas

      That particular mass murder, committed by the mormons, is not often talked about. Again, read "Under the banner of heaven" by Jon Krakauer.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Megan Call

      That would be Southern Utah Mormon's "Killing Field" . Happened Sept 11th 1957.
      This was Brigham's way of giving the US government the middle finger. Unfortunately 120+ non-mormon innocent men, women and children were massacred by mormon men. Big coverup by Brigham and the mormons.
      2 good books: Mountain Meadow massacre by Juanita Brooks & Blood of the prophets by Will Bagley.
      and oh........I am a mormon.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  2. GAW

    I found that to be rather odd that a local Mormon Ward had a sign that said "Visitors Welcome". I thought that was a given in most churches.

    October 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • CloudyOne

      If it were a given to everyone, you're right it wouldn't be necessary. But it's obvious, with the bigoted statements made by that pastor, that not everyone knows what's what with the LDS church. So it's probably for the best that they clarify that you don't have to already be a member to come in and attend a sunday meeting!

      October 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  3. Heather

    joseph smith was called a prophet dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb

    October 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Veritas

      There are no "prophets", not matter what name they have since nobody can predict the future.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • GAW

      Great South Park Episode.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Latter Day Saint

      To Veritas:
      Prophet refers not to one who sees the future, it refers to one who leads the Church through the guidance of God. In ancient times, God ordained prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. God has not taken them away from us. As Latter Day Saints, we are grateful to have a prophet to lead and direct God's faithful.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Magic

      LatterDaySaint,

      That "God" of yours is really an imp, isn't he? He tells different "prophets" different stuff - quite often contradictory. What's up with that?

      October 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Veritas

      @Latter Day Saint: A prophet is defined as many things, among them a person who predicts the future. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/prophet

      October 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      LOL, oh is THAT what a prophet is? VERITAS, don't you love it when confronted with facts, LDS have nothing to say? I think they actualy believe in "profits"...give us 10% of your money so we can send people around the world with white shirts on and mislead them.

      October 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  4. Pionatto

    NEVER believe in a church that do not allow you to just get there and worship with them. NEVER trust a church that worship "God" on closed doors to the public.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Gene

      Mormon worship services are not conducted behind "closed doors" as you claim. All are welcome to their Sunday services. Only temple ordinances are conducted in private, meaning only those who hold temple recommends may enter. That does exclude all non-Mormons and even some Mormons who don't hold such recommends. However, those temple ordinances are not part of their regular Sunday worship services, which again are open to all.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Latter Day Saint

      If you haven't noticed, on the outside of every Latter Day Saint church building, it says: Visitors Welcome. We always welcome everyone who wishes to come and worship with us. As for our Holy Temples, we believe that, "No unclean thing can enter into the presence of God." This is not meant as an offense at all, but one must be baptized and live the commandments faithfully to be able to enter into a Temple. For more information on temples, visit lds.org

      October 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  5. Ima Mormon

    Mormons continue to practice polygamy in Scripture, Temple ritual, and Theology. The Mormon Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants has never been changed to repudiate polygamy. Mormons continue to "seal"/ marry one man to many women in their Temples. And, Polygamy also known as the New and Everlasting Covenant is the highest form of family life as continued to be delineated in Mormon theology. In other words, we would if we could. Do your homework CNN.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Don

      because someone claims to be Mormon does NOT make it so. Anyone practicing polygamy today cannot be a member of the church in GOOD STANDING. Polygamy is an excommunicable offence in the church today if practiced. Temple sealings involving plural marriage is in reference to the afterlife, NOT here on earth. Don't assert that you know when you really do not.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Veritas

      So it is ok to practice polygamy in the "afterlife" but not in the real life. How comical 🙂

      October 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Gene

      Get your facts straight. The New and Everlasting Covenant is not the same as polygamy in the Mormon church. It only means a marriage sealed in their temple for time and all eternity. That is a marriage between one man and one woman. Don't talk about what you don't know about.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  6. Raacism in Mormon History

    Please also note that Mormon Faith believed people of color were cursed by God and could not hold "The Priesthood"...something that was part of their docterine until recent history (30 years ago)

    October 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Veritas

      Mormons believe the Native Americans were given their red skin as a punishment for fighting on the "devli's" side in some ancient mythical war. There is no end to the comical nonsense that is mor(m)onism.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Raacism in Mormon History: great point but your spell checker is broken. Please fix it so we're not distracted by that.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Don

      Joseph Smith ordained blacks into the priesthood in 1836. See church history. Later restrictions were put in place for a variety of reasons. All churches in the United States were segregated and not surprising given that slavery was acceptable, marrying between blacks and whites illegal, and blacks were not considered "citizens"

      October 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  7. Jim J

    Don't forget about their magical underwear.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Don

      Temple garments worn by Mormons are simply personal reminders of sacred covenants they make in a Temple of God. Temple garments are not magical nor do they do anything outside of reminding the individual about their covenants. Mormons do not teach or believe in magic.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Magic

      "Temple garments are not magical nor do they do anything outside of reminding the individual about their covenants."

      You would forget otherwise?... sounds like a very loose grip on those covenants.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Veritas

      @Don: "Mormons do not teach or believe in magic.". You're joking right? It's ALL about magic and hokus pokus.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  8. Tom

    The above 10 items about Mormonism barely scratch the surface and omit many of the more controversial aspects. Read Jon Krakauer's book "Under the Banner of Heaven" for a much more in-depth discussion of the beginning of Mormonism. Then decide for yourself if it is or is not a cult. The book is a fascinating and easy read, and my guess is you'll be absolutely astonished to discover how this "religion" originated.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Veritas

      That book is one of Krakauer's best, along with "Into thin air", and really reveals the both the origins of the Mormon cult and the dangerous, and sometimes violent, tendencies within both the LDS and the FLDS factions.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I agree. Fabulous, and rather frightening book.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • CloudyOne

      FLDS are not Mormons. It's deceptive to intentionally obscure lines between the two.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Veritas

      @CloudyOne: In actuality, the FLDS is more close to the original teachings of that great con man, Joseph Smith. Like most other religions, mormonism has been successively watered down from it's original version to be a little more acceptable to modern day, albeit gullible, man.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  9. Rambo

    Reason #1 to believe in the afterlife is because your life sucks, it's like sniffing a line of religion.
    Reason #2 is that somehow, you profit from people in Reason #1. And privately, you know it's crap.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  10. Not Stupid

    Thank you to all the mormon believers who've chosen to comment, and helped to further expose the harsh truth that all religion is a delusion. And thank you to the unbelievers, such as Veritas, who've chosen to comment in an intelligent and polite manner.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Rambo

      I accidentally clicked the Report Abuse link, I apologize. There should be a confirmation box after one clicks the link.
      In case your post is removed, I cite: "Thank you to all the mormon believers who've chosen to comment, and helped to further expose the harsh truth that all religion is a delusion. And thank you to the unbelievers, such as Veritas, who've chosen to comment in an intelligent and polite manner."

      October 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  11. spindrift

    Rhetoric: yes
    Kolob: no
    DNA: yes. correctly by other poster non LDS
    Independence,Mo: no
    BOM history: no
    Case rested

    "Roger, Paddles. Tomcat, Ball. See you on the deck. Over and out" "Roger Tomcat"

    October 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  12. T

    " 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. " Smith said angels showed him where to find the mystical writings from native Americans. Smith is listed as a prophet. There's just a bit more info that CNN seems to be presenting.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Veritas

      Totally agree, the founding of mormonism by that con man, Joseph Smith is much more ridiculous than CNN reveals in above article. Joseph Smith said that an "angel" named Moron (or was it Moroni) showed him where some ancient golden plates were buried on a hill in New York state. He dug them up and translated them (they writtten in "reformed" Egyptian hieroglyphs for some reason) by wearing magical glasses with "seer stones" instead of lenses and looking down into a hat. Then the plates disappeared and "god" allegedly reclaimed them. If you believe this you should be declared clinically insane.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Caral from SoCal

      There is also always a current "Prophet" who can receive new revelation. This is the part I find most worrying. Traditionally, cults vary from Orthodox Christianity on five points – Mormonism varies on all five.
      1) They hold other writings as inspired, other than the Bible (sola scripture)
      2) They do not believe that Jesus is God (He is the "son of God" but not God). (sola deo)
      3) The believe in some form of human revelation (the prophet system, in this case)
      4) They believe something is required in terms of works, rather than sola gracia, sola fide.
      Hmph. I am not home for references, and cannot come up with this one right now! That what working swing-shift will do to one. SOmeone help me...what's #5? 🙂

      October 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  13. Abraxas

    Organized religion is for cattle.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  14. Veritas

    We don't have to believe in magical fairy tales or an afterlife, life is good as it is. Live and love here and now. People can believe whatever nonsense supernatural fairy tales they please, but when religions get too much power bad things usually happens, as we can see in places like Iran or Pakistan, or in Europe a few hundred years ago. I would not want to live in an America ruled by christian evangelicals. I just wish people would keep their silly delusions to themselves. The people I've met that profess to be very religious are also the ones that come across as the most selfish and intolerant.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  15. mormonism-is-a-cult

    forgot to talk about sealing ceremonies and each family inheriting their own planet to populate with their offspring

    October 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Veritas

      All religions are ridiculous, but mormon texts and dogma are actually comical 🙂

      October 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  16. wannacoke

    Read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. It's all about the Mormons and their violent faith. Hey, how come no mention about their secret underwear?

    October 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Obv

      Re-read point two, you idiot.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Gene

      Guess the underwear isn't so "secret" since you and thousands of others know about it. Get over yourself.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Joseph Smith

    Hey Dan Gilgoff: you failed to mention that although Mormonism NOW prohibits polygamy, it was FOUNDED on it. And, LDS beileve that it will be restored in the afterlife. Selective reporting...who's paying you?

    October 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Caral from SoCal

      Or the very recent bias against blacks.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Very recent? Excuse me, but that's another FOUNDATIONAL basis of Mormonism. According to the book of Mormon, Lamanites were CURSED with black skin: 2 Nephi, Chapter 5, v. 21 "he had caused the acursing to come upon them... the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. According to the Mormons, if you have dark skin, this is a sign of a curse from God.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  18. alex

    organized religion...last bastion of the ignorant

    October 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  19. Dallas

    I see a lot of attacks on Mormonism; how about telling me what you believe and what you have done. Has your actions in impacting the world for good even come close to what the Mormon faith has done for the world. Why attack and degrade a religion whose entire purpose and mission is for good? I will support any faith or conviction that moves its tenants to do good, even if I don't believe what they believe.

    October 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • wannacoke

      I do believe in God; however, I do not trust, and never will, anyone connected with the Mormon faith. With the exception of two Mormons that I have dealt with, out of about 100 that I have encountered in my life, the rest have been some of the most unethical and disceptive people on this planet. The last one I worked with in business was an out right liar.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Mormonism is an AWESOME secular charitable organization, but masquerades as a religion. Most people admire Mormons for their community works, but when others realize that Mormons think their religion is the only one that matters and everyone else is doomed, you lose 'em. That's the problem Dallas.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Veritas

      We don't have to believe in magical fairy tales or an afterlife, life is good as it is. Live and love here and now. People can believe whatever nonsense supernatural fairy tales they please, but when religions get too much power bad things usually happens, as we can see in places like Iran or Pakistan, or in Europe a few hundred years ago. I would not want to live in an America ruled by christian evangelicals. I just wish people would keep their silly delusions to themselves. The people I've met that profess to be very religious are also the ones that come across as the most selfish and intolerant.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  20. lvnvchuck

    read the Mormon Murders...good book

    October 9, 2011 at 12:10 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.