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. Dustin

    The hatred and ignorance and flat out lies posted by so many here is disappointing. For all the progress on racism and other issues out nation has made religious bigotry clearly is alive and well.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Fitzryan McPatrick

      I hate all religions equally, no problem here!

      October 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Dustin

      Well that is one approach.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  2. SquareRootOfMinusOne

    Mormons claim that they are Christian. On the contrary. I believe that they can start on that road towards Christianity by:
    1) Becoming monotheistic and not polytheistic,
    2) Not emulating Joseph Smith who totally overlooked the Greek NT. For example, 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". This means that from then on there are no more any new faith proclamations, factors, nor directives whatsoever! The Sufficiency of Revelation has been proclaimed once FOR ALL. This is in direct contradiction to Mormon fundamental doctrine.
    3) Recanting their assumption that Joseph's vision is exalted higher than Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.
    4) etc....

    October 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  3. Fitzryan McPatrick

    Joseph Smith was a liar and a fraud. Anybody who believes in god is stupid and gullible. All religions are man-made and nothing happens when you die.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • BC

      The fool says in his heart that there is no God.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  4. johndubya

    Not discussed is that mormon teachings involve Jesus after resurrection went to south America, lived with Yucatan mayans built the mayan temples of Tulum, had two disciples assist him. Mormons call it the place of milk and homey, go on tours of central America and follow the path of Jesus. google mormon tulum. Egocentric enough to think God would go to a boy in upstate NY, send an angel named Maroni with special goggles to help the boy find the tablets and decipher the text,. God went to Meso America 1,000 years ago? Cookoo for cocoa puffs....

    October 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  5. daverdlap

    All religions have serious factual problems, but none moreso than Mormonism (and Scientology). The crucial mistake Joseph Smith made when he wrote the BoM was including facts that could later be checked. There is not a single archaeological, historical, or genetic claim – not one – made in the BoM that has been verified by modern scientific methods. Read Fawn Brodie's "No Man Knows My History" to get a more full account of who JS was (in short, a charlatan).

    October 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • K Kammeyer

      Sorry daverdlap,
      Fawn Brodie's "No Ma'am, That's not History" has been debunked so many times it's laughable. Please, just go to lds.org or mormon.org to get the straight story – I beg you. There's really no excuse anymore for the kind of ignorance displayed by many of the posters on this website, considering the wealth of true and accurate information that is available about the LDS Church – if you go to the source.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  6. The Realist

    Mormonism is another example of how christians can't agree with each other.

    One of the purposes of religion is unification. Too bad that unification formed a mob that killed Joseph Smith. Religion is a tool that can be used for good or evil. It takes advantage of the gullible and can either guide them down a peaceful path or a path of destruction.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Beth

      Mormonism and Christianity, in reality, have about as much to do with each other as Hinduism and Buddhism. They have some of the same major ideas, but are in fact not the same religion. In Christianity, the sacred text is the Bible and those who hold true to the text believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin and creator and savior of the human race. Mormonism believes that the Bible is corrupted and they require three other books–the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants. All three of these books are considered blasphemous to Christians. They believe that Jesus was literally conceived by a physical relationship with Mary, that he is the brother of Satan, rather than the creator of Satan (that he's an angel). They believe that different heavens and that one day, you too can be a god of your own universe. So they don't believe in just one true God. These two religions, other than terminology (which has different definitions) have very little in common. Islam believes in Jesus and other key old testament figures, but we wouldn't say that they are the same religion. I just get tired of people painting Christianity as a bunch of people who are out to fight each other. I am a Christian and I am not "out to get" Mormons. I just think that the media needs to highlight the differences in a truthful manner because most people don't know the true differences. I didn't until I did a year long study with Mormon missionaries.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Truth

      To Beth:
      Actually, mormons believe that the Bible is the sacred word of God. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are not meant to replace the Bible, but to act as its companions. Furthermore, mormons do believe that Mary conceived and bare Jesus as a virgin, just like other Christians. Mormons also believe that all people are children of God, therefore brothers and sisters, and that includes Jesus and Lucifer (Satan). As for the multiple heavens, we all know that there is not just good people and bad people. There are all different levels of righteousness, therefore we cannot place all humanity into two groups, so there are different levels of Heaven.
      In Romans 8:16-17 in the Bible, it states: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children ofo God.
      And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
      Heirs: meaning that if one follows Christ, we can inherit which God has.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Beth

      to Truth:

      I think your response is a result of using the same terminology but with different meanings. I have been told that Mormons believe that the Bible is only reliable so long as it is translated correctly. I believe the same thing, but I mean something completely different. I don't believe that I need a church president to tell me. I can go back to the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew to understand. I don't believe that any plain and precious things were lost and need to be supplemented through other texts. I believe that God has been faithful to keep His word to man and nothing has been lost, and nothing should be added as it says in Proverbs 30.

      As for heaven, orthodox Christianity teaches that there is none righteous, for all have sinned. Romans 6. Only those who place their trust in Jesus and salavation that comes from what he did on the cross can be saved. It doesn't matter if you have only sinned once or a million times, you are still unholy and unworthy to stand before a righteous God. There are no levels of heaven or righteousness and there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn it. Ephesians says that it is by grace we are saved through faith, not of works so that no man can boast.

      As for joint heirs with Christ, othodox Christianity and the Bible teaches that all things were made for Christ and that he will one day rule over everything and if we receive his salvation, then we will join him in his reign and dominion. We do not believe that this has anything to do with being his equal or literally his brother or sister.

      I would love to answer any other questions. Like I said, I have noticed in the many, many conversations I have had with Mormons that the chasm between our beliefs is huge and our religions are not reconcilable. I say that without any hatred or judgment on you or any Mormons. But the confusion comes because we do use so many of the same terms but we have very different meanings. And the other issue is the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Mormons are a cult, but I would say it is a different religion.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  7. Mike in Kansas City, MO

    Livng in the land of Mormons and the off-shoot RLDS, I have come across one name that neither like to defend – Solomon Spalding. If you ever want to see a Mormon go mad with anger, just mention that name. You might also ask them why the original Book of Mormon mentions implements made of Steel in the new world, some 3500 years ago. For those of you who are historically challenged, Steel was not discovered until the 19th century. It seems Joseph Smith was a better story teller than he was a historian.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • jacque

      Been LDS 37 years, never heard of spalding, and what is this "original book of mormon" you speak of, Are you climing to havea d=copy of an original b of m or is this some garbage you read on the internet?

      October 9, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Julie in Austin


      Steel has been around for longer than the industrial-scale processes to make steel have existed. The oldest known steel is about 4,000 years old.

      That said, there are a lot of historical and scientific errors in Mormon doctrine. I'd go into them, but I'd much rather eat dinner and watch TV ...

      October 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • K Kammeyer

      Sorry Mike,
      Solomon Spaulding's "Manuscript Story" has about as much to do with the Book of Mormon as it does with the Qu'ran – basically nothing. This is the second-oldest anti-Mormon "straw horse" out there (E.D. Howe's "Mormonism Unvailed" may be the earliest), but it has been debunked SO many times, it's really pathetic that people keep rediscovering it. A five-minute browsing of the web would prove this to you (try fairlds.org for starters).

      October 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  8. bfrombmore

    Hmmm no one eve seems to mention the racism in the Mormon religion. Their book 2 Nephi 5:21 says people were cursed with black skin. Same old racism that is taught by all religions.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  9. James

    Why anyone thinks that they understand Mormonism yet they haven't even gone to the source (mormon.org) is beyond me.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Julie in Austin


      Because the "inner workings" of the Mormon religion aren't as widely broadcast by Mormons as one might hope. For example, Mormons believe that if you're a really good person, and you do all the things that you're supposed to do, you'll also get to be a god.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  10. Lisa

    I feel bad for people who are swayed into believing that God is limited to whatever WE can do, think of, feel or perform on His behalf to save His people. What Christ did was so simple that even a child can understand, and that's what makes it so hard to accept for some. It's not a bad thing. You can't save yourself. We're not on the same level as Jesus. He is the ONLY begotten son of God, born of a virgin, died for our sins and we are His work. Because He loves us so much. That's all there is to it.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  11. missLolitaTn

    I don't want churches or religion involved with politics

    October 9, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Lisa

      Me either! It's upsetting and inappropriate. All conservatives are not "good Christians" and liberals "bad others" lol.......but that card gets played all the time doesn't it.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  12. Tom Trott

    Mormons will tell you that they are simply "Another Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul give SPECIFIC WARNING about this in GALATIANS!!!

    "Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

    The only time Paul repeats himself !! Mormons are, therefore, a CULT...plain and simple...they DENY the divinity of Jesus Christ while He walked this earth and have "re-interpreted" scripture to suit their own agenda. The "Book of Mormon" has NO ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS.....MORMONISM IS A CULT!!

    October 9, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • product503

      We believe that we are teaching exactly the same gospel as Paul. So, there is no contradiction.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • David Stanley

      Their founder, Joseph Smith, claims to have gotten the manuscripts by an angel appearing to him and telling him where to find the 'golden plates', so Joseph Smith actually made sure he was biblically correct when he read the biblical passage you mentioned

      October 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Tim

      Ok. So what do you make of John;s prophecy in Revelation 14:6 where he says "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." I guess you would not believe that angel if it came to you because of Paul's words to Galatians. And why would John talk about an angel with the gospel to PREACH UNTO THEM THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH?, if it wasn't firslty going to happen and secondly in need of happening? Why send an angel in the last days with the Gospel if it was already here? To many people pick and choose which scripture versus suit their current station spiritually. Be wise Tom, don't selectively read your Bible, or else you might think yourself wise, but be a fool.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  13. lroy

    They do not believe that Christ is divine, that he is both God and Man. That's why they have invalid baptism. And I'm sure many of you can quote chapter and verse but Jesus said there is one baptism then you die. So, a convert has to be baptized by Mormon even IF you've already been baptized in another religion (they don't recognize any other baptism but their own). That's like calling Jesus a liar. Also, if Mormons (sorry, LDS) believe they can have their own worlds as Gods...that's what the Serpent said to Adam and Eve...and we all know how THAT comes out.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • product503

      We do believe that God and Jesus are divine. We also believe that they hold the authority to govern their kingdom. That authority is passed to mankind to act in their name. Mormon's refer to that as the priesthood. So, we aren't making Jesus and God liars as you claim. No, we are baptizing in their name with their authority. Just as it says in Ephesians..."One Lord, one faith and one baptism." Not many baptisms, not many faiths. We claim that authority comes directly from our savior Jesus Christ.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  14. longshot

    This is about as realistic as arguing whether batman could defeat spiderman...it's all make believe, but each religion thinks the other is phony and none can see the irony in it all. Pretty amusing to see little minds spin on their gerbil wheels.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • longshot

      btw, spiderman would kill batman, easy

      October 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • jacque

      Why dont we just wiat till the other side to see who is right. If I am right then you wont have anything to say. If I am wrong and there is no God then you still wont have anything to say since there wont be anything there. Its a win / Win situatiion as I see it.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  15. product503

    I'm just bewildered by the necessity of so many people wanting to believe what they want to believe about mormons and the LDS Church. Yet, many mormons (although severely outnumbered here) are helping you understand what it really is they believe. Then those comments are followed by comments filled with fear, hate, and misconceptions. Most of what I've read by so many people here are not accurate. Please don't interject misleading comments. We don't do it about you, your faith or lack thereof. Start by going to mormon.org. I respect your values and beliefs and the truth is no one is going to be convinced of anything here. The point of the article/video was to educate on some basic beliefs. Not open the flood gates to intolerance. If you want to learn, great. If not, then I'm sure you've got a life and belief system that is working for you. Good! Those of us that believe in Jesus Christ well lets act as he would. Civilly. He'd listen and respond with love. In today's world of constant crisis I personally believe a little positivity would go a long way. Instead of working against each other let's figure out what we have in common. Imagine your mormon neighbors and them living in fear of you. It isn't fun and the same is true the other way around. Imagine what we can do if we can do if we find common ground to stand on. If we start there I'm sure great things will happen for us all.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • lroy

      I am Catholic and while you sound like a nice enough person, I do not wish to convert to Mormonism even if Donny Osmond asked me to himself. As long as a Mormon isn't doing anything illegal or Mormon I'll take any religion as a neighbor.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Holom

      Your church spent lots and lots and lots of money to deny gays the right to marry. Promoting hatred. What a wonderful church. Hooray for hate!

      October 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • longshot

      with all due respect, the religion is founded on ancient civilizations, writings and claims that never existed in the Americas...what more is there to discuss?

      October 9, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • saraha

      As a former member, it's not fear or hate I feel. It's dismay that people are so willing to believe such outrageous stuff. I was raised in the church, married in the temple, etc, but it's amazing what you find when you actually allow yourself to learn about the church from a different perspective than the washed and sanitized history they feed you in Sunday school. They teach you not to do your own research, just believe what they feed you or you are being influenced by satan. For a god whose laws are never changing, there sure have been a lot of changes. I mean, holy cow, black men can now hold the priesthood and men aren't supposed to marry multiple wives anymore. We now know that Brigham Young's prophesy that if a black person and a white person marry, god will kill them, well, that one didn't pan out either. Do your homework, real homework, and read more than just the mormon revisionist history. You might be surprised. But you'll more likely whitewash any doubts they might stir and just pretend that there's some rational explanation as to why, say, god likes black people now, but not 100 years ago. Just sayin.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • smurray

      Sarah......things for the insight. What you say is very true from what I have researched. Mormons are great people but brainwashed and not allowed to think for themselves....

      October 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  16. Not Fat

    Mormons believe that blacks bare the mark of (Herman) Cain and God lives on the Planet Kolob. Nuff said.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • jacque

      Hey every religion has its beliefs that are seemingly unbelievable to outsiders. Ex. catholics believe that the wine literally turns to Christs blood, Baptist believe you can exercise the devil out of someone, Jews believ ethey are goignt obe the only ones saved, etc, etc. all different beliefs all viable to those who believe. Let people believe what they choose and let the Lord decide whom he will call his own

      October 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • product503

      Neither statement is true.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  17. jo an

    What Mormons believe is no more 'unbelievable' than what fundamentalist believe...the 'Trinity' is as nuts as Joseph Smith. I feel sad for Jesus...

    October 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  18. DarphBoBo

    All religions are a cult, not just Mormonism.

    October 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  19. Midwesterner

    They have secret handshakes, the males are promised a planet (world) for their very own to be God over when they die, they are given a secret name so they can be called to their place, they set one night aside to bond with the family (family night), married husbands and wives usually take at leatsst 1 separate vacation from each other a year, angel pants, temple weddings where non Mormon family members can not attend. Interesting but different, however, the Mormons I know personally are all very warm, kind, loving and genuine people.

    October 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • jacque

      Oh no secret handshakes, call the police my middleschooler has one he does with his friends. Males are not given their own planet, mine cant even have the kitchen he woudlo burn it down. Scandalous we spend a night a week with our family. How unselfish and loving of us. Probably why our kids are in school not Juvie. Hey no one ever told me that I coudl get a seperate vactions away from my husband of 12 years , guees we didnt read the handbook. Angel Pants? Seriously? Not even worth a mention. All people can attend temple sealings they need only be baptised and obtain a recommend. Dont blame us if you cant follow rules. If you go to the movies they expect you to have a ticket and trun off your cell phone, dont really see the issue with an organization expecting you to follow the rules if you come in their building. if you come in my house you better follow my rules.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • pk

      Midwesterner...how much actual research have you done with a member, versus conversing with someone who is not a member. I am willing to guess, very little. The reality is, the beliefs LDS members hold sacred, that Jesus Christ is the savior would bring about a warm feeling in your heart. At that point you'd likely find your comments prior uncomfortable.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • lroy

      All one has to do is to look up Mormonism on EWTN web site.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • lroy

      Husbands and wives...separate vacations? Never heard that one. For the sake of everyone, does that work for parents and adult children too?

      October 9, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  20. Steve

    Lets get one thing straight. The church was RESTORED with the help of Joseph Smith. Jesus Christ founded the church as it is his church (hence the name). Christ called his apostles (Peter, James, John, etc.) then they were either banished or killed. The church was taken from the earth during which time many other churches, that are not guided by Christ, sprouted up. Jesus Christ restored his church back to the earth through Joseph Smith.

    I'm sorry that there are people out there that believe God does not speak to his children today and that revelation is lost. Why pray then? If he does not speak to anyone, why do we even bother praying? It doesn't make sense to me. Anyone who wants to really know how the LDS Church was created, call a missionary. They will give you the Book of Mormon for FREE.

    October 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Tim

      So, in other words, you are saying that any Christian church that existed prior to this RESTORATION is false? That it is not truly Christian? That should help your cause.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Frank

      No such thing happened. Proof? Mormons believe that any man, not women, but any man can become a God. They do not hold up Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. He was just another apostle.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Christian

      Too bad the book of mormon contains virtually none of the mormon doctrine. To get that you need to look at the "non-canonical" doctrine of covenants and journal of discourses. But hey, if your leaders (prophets) can never lead you astray, why designate the books as non-canonical?

      October 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Brady


      Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons do NOT believe that Jesus was just another apostle! That is the farthest thing from our actual beliefs. We believe Christ to be the son of God and the savior of the human race. Without Christ no man or woman can be saved. Again we believe him to be the son of God. Go to Mormon.org and take a look at our beliefs if you would like the truth!

      October 9, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • K Kammeyer


      Joseph Smith called the Book of Mormon the "keystone of our religion", so yes, it very much contains the doctrine of the Church. Consider these verses from the Book of Mormon, 3rd Nephi 11:31-32. Keep in mind, this is Jesus Christ speaking:

      31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
      32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

      It doesn't get any more doctrinaire than that, in my humble opinion.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • K Kammeyer

      Also, Christian, you incorrectly referred to the Doctrine and Covenants, which Joseph Smith in the preface called "the foundation of our religion". It IS canonical, as are the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Journal of Discourses is a collection of early sermons by various LDS Church leaders, and has NEVER been accepted as scripture. Please try to get your facts straight.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:57 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.