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. Loss4Words

    Agenda and religious beliefs aside, there is one edict of the LDS Church worth consideration. Having a supply of food and essentials on hand in the event of a crisis situation. Those that plan and create a strategy to survive a crisis, will increase their odds of survival, while those that fail to consider such things will be at the mercy of FEMA and other "charitable" organizations.

    October 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  2. saraha

    One of my favorite mormon beliefs and one that shows the true "equality" that women in the church face, is that a man that makes it to the celestial kingdom will be rewarded with a world of his own to be god of and women that make it to the same degree of glory get to be polygamous wives of said gods and bear children for eternity to populate his world. Sounds like quite a reward, eh ladies? This doesn't even cover the crazy, cultish bs that goes on in the temples.

    October 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  3. mormonism=freemasonry

    mormonism was founded by freemason defector joseph smith, look at the temple of nauvoo youll find many masonic symbols, they are satanic cult just like freemasonry

    October 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  4. sensitive bunch

    It requires faith to believe. One that only concentrates on secularism is doomed to fail.

    October 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  5. tiredof this

    Incredible. Amazing, the amount of "experts" here on what mormons believe. Even more amazing, the amount of crazy stuff thrown out there by these "experts". Just because you heard someone else say it, or read it in anti mormon literature, or saw a goofy anti- movie does not make you an expert! You look pretty foolish to actual mormons who know what they believe, and its nothing like what's being thrown around.

    Shame on CNN for repeating this post that they know full well riles up the uneducated masses.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You can believe whatever you want. However, the history of Joseph Smith and the debunking of his claims sort of make it foolish to believe he was anything other than a conman.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Fitzryan McPatrick

      Joseph Smith was a liar and a fraud. Your underwear is not magic, sorry Charlie!

      October 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      @tiredofthis, before I bring out the hankerchiefs, why don't you and any other LDS leader answer the many unanswered questions we have for your Church? The Early Christian Church humbly never shied away from logically and conclusively explaining all things said against it. And it prevailed with its Trinitirian Doctrine.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  6. Garrett

    Merriam-Webster defines a Christian as follows: One who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
    Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians.

    For those who believe that pastor's rant saying mormons don't follow the new testament because they believe in a role of works coupled with faith in Jesus Christ, they should read James chapter 2 from the New Testament – Here's just one of the verses James 2:17 Evenso faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
    Faith in Christ leads one to do good works

    October 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  7. TheDudeAbides

    Odin is the one true deity! And he looks just like Anthony Hopkins, too!

    October 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • lulz


      October 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  8. JustPlainJoe

    Orthodox religion (in whatever form) is intrinsically psychotic. To believe in a suspension of the laws of nature for a miracle is beyond ration. Hence, extremely religious individuals should be precluded from office for psychiatric reasons alone.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      @JustPalinJoe, by definition each person has a physical, psychological (Greek for the study of the soul), and a spiritual side. Just because you don't subjectively recognize your own spiritual side doesn't mean that other's cannot recognize theirs.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  9. truth bomber

    Mormans believe Jesus Christ lived here in North America. They also believe in magic underwear. Why aren't these FACTS listed too? Religion is for idiots.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • CJ

      Hey...Magic underwear is a powerful thing. Mine are syled after superman.

      Oh wait...those are Underoos...my bad.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Fitzryan McPatrick

      if you're looking for magic underwear, check out these adult underoos –> http://www.funderoos.com

      October 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • tiredof this

      Wrong on both counts. Mormons don't believe Jesus lived in North America, and they don't wear "magic underwear". That phrase sure makes people feel like they are comedians, but it's so old and worn out it reeks.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  10. SquareRootOfMinusOne

    Quotes from wikipedia.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints):

    "Differences between the LDS Church and most of traditional Christianity include ... a doctrine of 'exaltation' which includes the ability of humans to become gods and goddesses in the afterlife." Reference used is: Carter, K. Codell (1992), "Godhood", in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan, pp. 553–55, ISBN 0-02-904040-X, http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/EoM,3734 ("The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all resurrected and perfected mortals become gods."). This all sounds like what Satan said to Eve "you shall be as gods" (Gen 3:5). I'll personally side with the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity on this one.

    "Under the doctrine of [new] continuing revelation [such as the Book of Mormon], Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus, under the direction of Heavenly Father, leads the church by revealing his will to its President" This is in direct contradition to Jude 1:3 which says that the faith was "once for all delivered unto the saints." (ASV) I'll side with the New Testament on this one.

    "He [Joseph Smith] also introduced the church to a full accounting of his First Vision, in which two heavenly "personages" (LDS interpret them to be God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ) appeared to him at age 14. Long after Smith's death, this vision would come to be regarded by the LDS Church as the most important event in human history after the resurrection of Jesus." What about Pentecost?!?! Is Joseph Smith's vision is more important !! LDS Leaders, answer me on this one if you dare.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • BatterUp

      Is there any LDS Leader willing to reply to SquareRootOfMinusOne's factual findings & comments? Any LDS believer?

      October 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Joe in VA

      The focus of you misunderstanding is based on wordage. First, you cite wikipedia, in which any person with typing skills can submit. So let's address your claims:
      1. We do believe that resurrected AND perfected mortals become gods. This is the same principle that (good) fathers wish us to be successful and be like them. They teach us and guides us so we may avoid things that are detrimental or harmful. As children we learn these things from our fathers. As Fathers, we teach these things to our children.
      Everyone will be resurrected, not everyone will be perfected. This is a doctrine of progression, unlike the common belief of just hanging around heaven and not doing anything.
      2. The leader of our church is Jesus Christ, hence the name. And without his guidance and direction, the church would not grow. It's easy to quote small sections of scripture:
      Jude 1:3 "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
      This faith is believing in Jesus Christ.

      3. IMHO, yes it it. At the time of the Pentacost, the priesthood order was still intact upon the earth. The first vision becomes important because of the importance of the restoration of the priesthood which was no longer upon the earth because of apostasy.

      You should reread your scriptures and review the ordinances that should be performed but aren't. Worldy leaders say these things aren't needed today because they were for the people in the old testament, but if God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then it is men that choose to not perform what is required. If the words in the old testament were not relevant then why do we continue to read them? It's because of the doctrine of progression. We can still learn from the Old and New testament as well as the Book of Mormon.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • K Kammeyer

      As a lifelong member of the LDS Church who has attended LDS Sunday School classes for over 50 years, I can definitively say that not once in that time has the so-called "doctrine" of blood atonement or any of the other half-baked concepts claimed here as Mormon been taught in those classes. The vast majority of bloggers here are blissfully ignorant of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually teaches -which is a shame, because all they have to do is go to lds.org or mormon.org to find out what we REALLY teach. How hard is that?

      October 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Mike D

      The LDS church teaches a doctrine of salvation and exaltation. Salvation refers to the immortality that all people will receive by virtue of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Paul's epistle to the Corinthians where he says that all shall be made alive through Christ), and ultimately forgiveness for our sins as Christ is the mediator between all of us and the Father. Exaltation is the opportunity that we all have, as spirit sons and daughter of God, to become like Him, if we so choose. We use the term exaltation and 'eternal life' interchaneably, and view Christ's teaching (see John 17:3) that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. To know them in this sense is to be like them. Christ commanded us to be perfect as He and His Father were perfect (Matt. 5:48). What better way to show our devotion to God than to do our best to be like Him. There is no shame in the doctrine of exaltation, and it is God's desire to welcome us all back to be with Him as taught by the Savior in the parable of the prodigal son.

      In Jude 1:3, Jude wrote: "it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." He was speaking to the early Christian saints that were being persecuted and encouraging them to not give up on the faith that was taught to them by Christ and His apostles. This does not in any way contradict the doctrine of continuing revelation, which always has been and always will be an essential part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Christ told Peter (Matthew 16:13-18) that it was God who revealed to Peter the divinity of Christ, and that it was on the principle of revelation (see v. 18) that His church would be founded." It was so in the New Testament, and it continues today.

      The Pentacost was the revealing of the Holy Ghost to the apostles and the early Christian saints, which Jesus said he would send as another comforter (see John chapter 16). Today we also receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, which is another way that Mormons differ from other Christian religions. In a sense it is like a personal Pentacost. No one is doubting the significance of the Pentacost, but the visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ to reveal again the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness is the greatest event in the history of mankind since the Resurrection of Christ.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      @Joe in VA:
      1) A simple question: Do you believe in the Mormon multiple Gods doctrine or in the Christain Holy Trinity doctrine? It's one or
      the other, which is it?
      2) The Greek rendition of Jude 1:3 is that we should earnestly contend for the faith which was "once FOR ALL delivered unto the saints", not "once delivered unto the saints." This is the same error Joseph Smith committed, he totally overlooked the Greek NT!
      3) OMG! You admit to Joseph's vision as higher than Pentecost?!?! Did I hear you right? The LDS Church is exalting Joseph Smith above the Holy Spirit. Say it ain't so.

      October 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  11. JAG

    Native Americans? Really?
    Does it not matter how ridiculous this sound?

    October 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  12. cons

    Mormonism is infinitely better than liberalism. Just look at how the liberal controlled media sets the debate.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Diogenes

      Ah. I see.

      Liberal: Anyone who doesn't get their opinion from Faux News.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  13. ryan

    what about the magic underwear? or the fact that joseph smith is a total fraud? hmm?

    October 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Jacob

      It is interesting to here you claim that Joseph Smith was a fraud. What evidence do you have that he was a fraud. Was it all the money he took from his people? (Unlike today's TV evangelists he did not use his position to get rich). Was it the fact that the church he reestablished was a failure? (It has grown every year since 1830) Was it because the Book of Mormon is a fraud? (I have read the entire Bible cover to cover and find the Book of Mormon's doctrines to not only fit perfectly, but to clarify things that would otherwise have been left to guessing. There is no way an uneducated farm boy could have written that book.) Or was it his lack of sincerity? (He gave his life to testify of the truth of all he had taught.)

      If you would investigate the man directly instead of getting distorted information second hand you would still have the right to disagree with him, but you would respect him. Joseph Smith was a mortal man with imperfections like the rest of us, but he was definitely not a fraud.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Joe in VA

      Wow! Do you question the what the pope wears? This is a reminder of our covenants with the Lord. It is the same reminder that ancient Jews were commanded to wear. This helps remind us to put on the armor of God.

      As for Joseph Smith, what basis do you claim he is a fraud? State some facts.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  14. New Testament

    Baptisms for the dead or talked about in the New Testament, but much like other things of the Bible, churches claiming to be Christian often don't follow the Bible in their structure and organization.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. Amy

    I am LDS, and I appreciate your candid approach to this. You told the truth and you got all the facts right. Thank you!

    October 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • ryan

      what about the magic underwear? or the fact that joseph smith is a total fraud? hmm Amy?

      October 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  16. Tim

    With all due respect, there's a HUGE question that is not being asked of Romney and Huntsman. Practicing Mormons view the President of the LDS church as a "prophet" ... in the sense that he (and only he) speaks directly to God. When he "calls" you, you do whatever he tells you to do. WHATEVER and WITHOUT QUESTION. So, if the LDS President calls the LDS President of the United States and says "do this" (whatever it is), do you do it? If not, then you are not a practicing Mormon. That fact about their religion automatically disqualifies both Romney and Huntsman from ever being President ... IMHO.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Captain Marvel

      Tim... they said the same thing about JFK and the pope back in the 60s. We have a 3-branched system of government in this country. The president does not do anything substantial alone.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Amy

      That's just not true, Tim. Our church, including the prophet does not tell candidates or elected officials what to do. It just does not happen.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • tiredof this

      Every election year in November, there is a statement read over the pulpit in mormon congregations: "The Church does not endorse any political candidate. Each member is encouraged to be engaged in our democratic process and vote their conscience."

      October 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Craig

      Actually, Tim – During Romney's 2008 campaign, he specifically and poignantly stated that he would not be influenced in his decisions to guide the US by his religious leaders; any of them. It is really tragic how many blatantly uneducated (concerning Mormonism) people get on here and give their two cents. This is ignorance to the extreme. If you want to learn of ANYTHING, Spiritual or not, you must seek it out on your own rather than rely wholly on the biased word of others. If anyone truly researched (on their own accord) the gospel and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from ITS resources, they would find that it is the most pure, unadulterated Christianity – even the same that Christ established on earth. Unfortunately, so many of you intelligent people blindly listen to bigots, false teachers and filthy lies. If everyone would put in the time to really learn rather than tear down others' beliefs, morals and faith, how much more peaceful would this world be? Its a sad, twisted, God-Hating world we're living in.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  17. j

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

    October 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  18. John

    I was a Mormon for 30 years and left the church at 34. My family are leaders in the church and were deeply hurt when I left. It is true that Mormonism is a cult. I understand the view from those of you who don't beleive in Christianity or God could be looking at this as "What's it matter, all religions are man made"? I can't answer all of this in a blog which some of you appear to have the upper hand in due to the length of time it takes to explain your, "One line insults to the various faiths". However, from an Orthodox Christian perspective which you should look up and compare for yourselves, Mormonism is a cult. By the way, the RLDS now the COC have the original finished copy of Jospeh Smith's BOM, not the Mormons. A good read, if your willing to read and not just voice your view is "One Nation under Gods" by Richard Arbanes.

    I would vote for Romney despite Mormonism. I do know for a fact the church would try to capitalize off of it. The pastor who attacked him took a low shot trying to rile up the Evangelical community.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • angelic

      so you'r orthodox now?

      October 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • John

      Oops.. I was a Mormom for 15 years. Have no idea why I said 30. sorry.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • K Kammeyer

      Say what? The RLDS have the "original" edition of the Book of Mormon? Gee, that's news to me. My grandfather owned an actual 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon, and I own two modern exact copies of the first edition. Other than versification, chapter headings and footnotes which were added later, they are not substantially different from the current edition. You'll certainly find less differences between editions of the Book of Mormon than you will between Bibles, and you still believe in that book, don't you? Like I said, when in doubt, please to to mormon.org for the straight story.

      October 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  19. Kara

    Instead of listening to people who aren't LDS talking about what LDS people believe, visit lds.org and mormon.com. Would you go to a Catholic to learn about the Lutherns? No! Of course not.

    October 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • John

      Here is some food for though.
      1. Half of the BOM was written in King James english. Say whaaa? King James know about this? Did the Angels write in King James or something?
      2. Blood tests taken of Native American indians revealed they were not of jewish origion.
      3. How can you breath after getting you head cut off? Read the BOM to find out.
      4. No cities found, coins, weapons.
      5. Read up on the "Salamander Letter"..... You'll like.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      You can also check out the Skeptics Annotated Bible, which has the book of mor(m)on also. This is a must have reference!

      October 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Rich

      Hahaha are you really bringing up the Salamander letter. That has been proven to be a complete fraud. Nice try though.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jacob

      Well said Kara. I like to get my drinking water from the source instead of down-stream after the cows have waded through it.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  20. Oregonboy

    I am Mormon, and what HDK has stated is exactly true. Only Mormon Men can hold the autorative Preisthood, that puts them in a leadership position and heiracty towards the wife. Also, we are councled to NOT to mingle with those other than our faith...because of the influcens of the world. Anyone who says otherwise is not an active Mormon. Also, we are counciled to have many children...and get married YOUNG..right after my mission. These are the FACTS!!!

    October 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • angelic

      you follow a sadistic religion, it should be banned just as islam should. it oppresses women and gives them minimum rights. go seek the truth instead of living in a bubble.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Joebird

      @angelic. I don't think you picked it up, but Oregonboy is being sarcastic. I'm Mormon and it's not like that at all....lol

      October 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      @Joebird, I don't think YOU got it right. There are plenty of web sites that host testimonials from people that have left the LDS. Check them out for yourself. Any "thing" that has a plethora of websites denouncing that thing, by former adherents, has to tell you something bad about that "thing" now, doesn't it?

      October 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Paul

      Get married YOUNG and have as many children, only to bring more into the fold; this is the message of the church. What about the Gay LDS? The church's stance is that they too should get married and have children and be someone they aren't? The control of this church and the pressure to get married has forced many Gay LDS members to lead lives that follow the church but isolate themselves and force them to lead a lifestyle that only creates grief and anguish in their soul. These amazing individuals have a tremendous battle inside of themselves and the church is unwilling to help, maybe with the exception of "curing" these people but lets' face it people you can't really make a gay person straight… And before you ask I know a few gay LDS members who are married with kids. They married young and had kids before they really figured out who they were and now they are sorting through these issues they are facing this battle… There is no "correct" religion but when you go and take God's message of "Love and Acceptance" and twist it into "Hate and Control" that's where I have to draw the line… I only with these individuals who are facing this inner turmoil could step back and see the fallacies and hypocrisy and realize that they will go to heaven because God loves all, not just those that follow "man's interpretation".

      October 9, 2011 at 5:30 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.