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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. Mtnmedic

    If Christ was not a Mormon, not God but rather some ordinary man, and Mormonism isn't Christianism, why do the Mormons call it the "Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints"? More unexplained hypocrisy. All religions are cults.

    October 10, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  2. Sircuts

    Mormon 101:

    "Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites. The Lamanites shall be a dark, filthy, and loathsome people ...redemption will restore faith and skin color to pure white. ~Book Of Mormon

    October 10, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  3. Sircuts

    CNN you forgot the part where Joseph Smith married 28 woman some as young as 12, oh yeah he also claimed to be a prophet of god...and so did Brigham Young . Joseph Smith was killed awaiting trial for treason..If this is Mitt Romney's religion (cult) he is an idiot.

    October 10, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • Anonymoussource

      Guessing that you are not Christian if you are slamming them (Mormons-latter day saints) for having more than one wife. Otherwise you'd already know that Abraham, isaac, Jacob, etc. All married more than one wife...

      October 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  4. Mattmchugh

    All religions are human fabrications. The are fictions that provide comfort and guidance. If those fictions inspire people to do some good in the world, I have no problem with them.

    Unfortunately, people can twist their myths to justify anything. I don't blame religions for evil. I blame people.

    - mm

    October 10, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  5. Super-D

    Mormons only sound more like nutjobs than Christians because their religion is more recent. People just seem to get used to the idea of a man walking on water, or a talking snake, or a giant boat full of millions of animals because they hear it from such a young age. All religious mythology, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Scientologist, Mormon, Hindu, or whatever, are all made up crazy stories. They were all cults when they started out, and are only called "religions" because they tricked enough people into believing them.

    October 10, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • Steve

      If you think that's bad – some people actually believe the universe came into existence out of nothing! That life just happened! You can ask them how it started – they don't have an answer, but they "know" it can't be a higher power. No – something collided with something else and BANG! Life on earth. Not sure where those things that collided came from... but whatever.

      October 10, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • Erin

      Ha ha steve! Isn't it funny that even those who claim science as their religion still have to choose to believe things that seem incredible and can't really be explained. They also have to choose who they trust to be their teachers to teach them things that they personally haven't witnessed. They just choose different people.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  6. Rebecca

    If you really want to know, talk to your local missionaries. They are delightful young men and women. They will bring you a book of Mormon and explain the principles to you. I know, my son served his mission in... Italy!

    October 10, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • Sircuts

      I bet they would...

      October 10, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  7. Anonymoussource

    From the outside looking in on religions, I have to say how silly the reverend (and many comments) sound. I am not a religion at this point in my life...but having attended basically a bible college, I am familiar with it. These comments/reverend sound so silly. They seem so much more like the Pharisees and saducees than they could even realize. These Mormons (or latter-day saints as it says they prefer) are some of the kindest, honest, and hard working people I have dealt with. They resemble very closely what Jesus taught on the sermon on the mount, and about love and faith.

    Then you have these so called "Christan"...or "born again Christian" people that are trying to identify things that Mormons do that are not in accordance with what they interpret to be the law. They then judge and accost them saying that they're an evil cult. .....exactly as the Pharisees and saducees used to do to Christ and his followers. ...lol...they don't even see the irony.

    I don't claim a religion..but if I were to become a Christian, I think that the mormons seem to have it the closest.

    October 10, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  8. Fostah

    another reason to vote for someone who isn't brainwashed. RON PAUL!

    October 10, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • UtahPilot

      I am about as active in the Mormon church as anyone and I am a supporter of Ron Paul. I actually know quite a lot of members of the church who are supporters as well. If you claim the reason Mormons support Romney just because he is a Mormon, well, this could happen with any religious denomination. So they all must be "brainwashed" huh? But I personally have never heard of a Mormon saying he or she wont vote for someone because he is a "Catholic" or a "Baptist"...

      October 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  9. CSM

    Hahaha... this explains a lot.. and only solidifies my belief that a mormon in the White House is the wrong thing to do.

    October 10, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Lilburn W. Boggs

      You're right, Romney or Huntsman?! Why put candidates like them in the White House?

      We need to re-enact the extermination order against the Mormons too!! Let's form a mob!

      October 10, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • Hoovervilles

      @Lilburn W Boggs

      Mountain Meadows Massacre

      October 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  10. Joseph Smith

    Joseph Smith was born into a large Christian family in the early 1800s. Religion and studying the Holy Bible with his family was an important part of Joseph's life. During this time there were many religions and his family members belonged to different churches. Joseph loved God and wanted to do what God wanted him to do. He did not know which church to join, perhaps the church his Mother attended?, maybe the church of his brother? or his Father?, he did not know. He read the Bible and prayed to God to gain knowledge. One day he read a passage in the book of James where God says that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5-6) Joseph was 15 years old and believed that if he would ask God "in faith, nothing wavering", that God would answer him. In the Spring of 1820 he went to a quiet forest grove to pray and receive the answer to his prayer. This sacred experience began a series of events that would bring about the restoration of the gospel and Christ’s true Church.

    http://lds.org/scriptures/gs/restoration-of-the-gospel?lang=eng

    October 10, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • CSM

      Still a cult.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • CSM

      Christ was not a mormon. READ THE ACTUAL BIBLE. JC said to St. Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church." He founded what is today the Catholic Church.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • Apostacy

      CSM – You're right! And after Christ, Peter all the other apostles were murdered and the priesthood of Christ was 'killed' with them, God's authority was gone! "Dark Ages" – remember history 101? The kings and leaders of the time got together to decide who God was, what His church would be and who would lead it. They imposed their rule on the people, killed and murdered in the name of Christ and introduced such things as indulgences, check it out.

      October 10, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • Sircuts

      Just let these idiots talk for a wile they bury themselves...

      October 10, 2011 at 6:33 am |
  11. DasherLost

    You left off the part that they believe if you are a good enough Mormon you get to be God of your own Universe

    October 10, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  12. Garet821

    And yet we like to conveniently forget that the senate majority leader is Mormon.

    October 10, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Erin

      Thank you! It always boggles my mind that no one ever talks about Reid when they talk of Mormons in politics.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  13. JD

    Mormonism is and has been a fraud from the beginning.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  14. john

    They fail to mention here that the 14yr old Joe Smith claims Jesus, God and angels came to him and showed him gold tablets in a cave in NY that were left there by jews that came to America in 2200 B.C. and that is the source for his book of Mormon that the "religion" is based on, these tablets of course dont actually exist anywhere in reality. This is why is not a religion but a bunch of nut jobs.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Jerry

      So Christ can turn water into whine, raise the dead and come back from the dead himself
      Daniel can survive the Lion's Den
      Three men can survive a fiery furnace
      Jonah can live in the belly of a fish
      Noah can build an ark and then gather up 2 of every species
      Moses can visit a burning bush to obtain commandments
      Sampson can have magical hair

      but this that Joseph Smith says happens now this is going just a bit too far

      October 10, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • john

      I didnt say the others were any less farcical!

      October 10, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Jerry

      Touche

      October 10, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Billie the Mormon

      HAHA Jerry! I really need to turn this comp off and go to bed (early run & classes: the college life), but your post made me burst out laughing! HAD to acknowledge it's awesomeness. I hope your not gonna copyright it cuz I'm plagiarising that one 🙂

      October 10, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Patricj

      Do not call Mormons nut jobs, who are you to criticize any faith?

      October 10, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  15. Billie the Mormon

    Will someone explain to me where the Trinity idea that Jesus Christ was both the Father and the Son? I think (from account of His mortal ministry) that it is very clearly shown that Heavenly Father was in Heaven while Christ was on Earth:
    1) Christ continually prays throughout his life-if not to his Father in Heaven, then who to?
    2) The accounts of His baptism (like Mark 1: 10-11) which clearly separates the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (as in while Christ is coming out of the water, a voice from Heaven says "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", and the Holy Ghost descends in the form of a dove.
    3) When Mary and Joseph chastise him at the age of twelve for remaining in Jerusalem: He responds (Luke 2: 49) "...I must be about my Father's business." This shows that He came to Earth by the will of the Father
    4) His cry to the Father in the most difficult moments of His mission: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
    5) Christ is continually referred to as the Son of God.
    Those are a few a thought of. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He came to do the will of the Father. He fulfilled the Law of Moses and made it possible for us to return to live with Him. I hope from my list you can see a few reasons why we believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are separate beings.
    I sincerely would like someone to help me see where the idea of the trinity comes from. I really don't want to offend anyone- I just wanted you to see where we're coming from 🙂

    October 9, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Me

      Come on Billie, didn't you know that Christ was a paranoid schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Dustin

      John 17 makes is really clear
      These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ME, the hour is come; glorify ME, that I also may glorify ME:
      2 As I hast given ME power over all flesh, that I should give eternal life to as many as I hast given ME.
      3 And this is life eternal, that they might know ME the only true God, and ME, whom I hast sent.
      4 I have glorified ME on the earth: I have finished the work which I gavest me to do.
      5 And now, O ME, glorify thou me with MY own self with the glory which I had with ME before the world was.
      6 I have manifested MY name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: MINE they were, and I gavest them me; and they have kept MY word.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Me

      So taking verses from the bible you have both shown very well two different beliefs. You both did a great job by the way showing why you believe the way you do. Wouldn't it be great to have some other way to clarify confusions that can come from all of this.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Dustin

      please tell me you caught the Irony of my post. It would be pointless to have such a conversation with ones self.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Billie the Mormon

      Ha ha Dustin now I get it. I was SOO confused, especially when I looked up the reference and it was a Father/Son conversation. I was like "Whoa-this dude has got a WEIRD version of the Bible-where did he get all the "Me's" from?!" Then I saw your other post.
      Gracias, my friend 🙂
      Ha ha just noticed all my posts end with a smiley face...

      October 10, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Me

      well I guess you have shown me to be very foolish

      October 10, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • JDJ

      I think the Trinity is a difficult doctrine to explain and understand, but it is true. Jesus said "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." At another point, Jesus puts Himself on par with God the Father when He says "Before Abraham was, I am." At creation, God said "Let us make man in our image" and when dealing with the Israelites, in Deuteronomy 6:4 it was pronounced "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD." Hope this helps.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Me

      Now can I say it?

      So taking verses from the bible you have both shown very well two different beliefs. You both did a great job by the way showing why you believe the way you do. Wouldn't it be great to have some other way to clarify confusions that can come from all of this.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  16. Thayer

    "5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has outlawed polygamy since 1890."

    They only did this because the government made them do it. They would be practicing polygamy to this day if the government didn't step in. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were both perverted old men with with 50+ wives many of whom were teenagers. These are the leaders started their organization. It's totally a cult.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Uhh...

      Again have you done ANY research whatsoever?

      October 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      He does have a point. Mormons believe you will have multiple wives in heaven and that' s a fact Jack!

      October 10, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Anonymous

      Who cares if someone had more than one wife? As long as they are consenting adults its really no one else's business, especially not the government's. Stop worrying about whats going on in other peoples bedrooms.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Dustin

      Catholics believe all nuns are married to Christ. (I've had many Catholics tell me this.)

      October 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • JDJ

      Thayer is right. The teaching of multiple marriages was a revelation Smith had so he could justify his behavior to his wife (who left Smith's branch of Mormonism after Smith died).

      October 10, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  17. Minor Details

    He did a good job of explaining our church, and I applaud him for that, and also trying to get this message out. But there are some minor details I would like to correct.

    First of all, we believe that Joseph Smith Jr. (Yes, he was a junior) was the prophet called to restore the church, not the "founder" as the video states.

    Second, The "special undergarments" as the video states are only for adult members in good standing. We believe in modesty not just because we don't want to show these undergarments, we believe that the body is holy and should not be abused or mistreated in any way.

    Third, the play "The Book of Mormon" is a parody and not based off actual facts. For example: It displays we throw our missionaries into foreign countries totally unprepared, when in actuality, we put them through intensive training in the MTC (missionary training center) for 1-3 months learning the language, the customs, and more about the people.

    If you have any other questions about what we believe in, here is what we call the Articles of Faith, made by Joseph Smith Jr., to overview of what we believe in. Here is the link to the Articles of Faith:
    http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1.1-13?lang=eng#1

    I got this from our website; http://www.lds.org, and it displays all our general authorities, regular people, and what they and we believe in. Or better yet, talk to our Missionaries in your area.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  18. CS

    Joseph Smith was a known con-man....yes Mormonism is most definately a cult.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Uhh...

      Have you done any research whatsoever?

      October 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Non-mormon

      to: uhh, have you done your?
      I have done mine, here is a question for you:

      Jopesh Smith had visions dated before his ordination to priesthood. Then you can see on 'Doctrine and Covenanat' section 84:21-22. It say: without the authority of priesthood, no man can see the face of God....
      Please check the dates when Joseph wrote on his journals about his visions and when he became a 'priest'
      You knew about this, right? so how is this possible? Mormons say the book of mormon is perfect. uhh, how???? if the 'author' contradicts himself.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Mtnmedic

      No answer from uhhhh. Just the sound of crickets chirping. Why? He's too busy tryin to concoct another "answer" because he has looked desperately for anything that will back him up and found nothing.

      October 10, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Hoovervilles

      @Uhh...

      Yes, I have. Just look up "gla ss looking" or "money digging" and you will see Joseph Smith prominent in this con.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  19. Mike

    Weird as it may seem I respect the posts on here from completely anti-religious people more than those that profess to be of some other Christian religion. Sure I think it is idiotic for those who believe in nothing to bash those that believe in something. If you really don't believe in anything there is no point to any of it anyways. But those that profess some other Christian faith to bash another religions beliefs is as far from a Christ like behavior as you can get. Christ taught to be loving and accepting of all. Christ taught that the right thing to do is to teach those that may not have the truth. Christ never tore down the beliefs of others, he never taught to be haughty and superior but to uplift and embrace.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Matt

      of course there's a point! It's called life! Think of the odds that you are here. It's literally astronomical. That exact combination of your mother's and father's DNA is the one that produced life. There's billions of possibilities that could have happened. But they didn't you're here. The meaning of your life is exactly what you do with your life. If you help people, that's the meaning of your life. Your children, your community, all are possibilities. But still you say, WHAT'S THE POINT? The human race. We have to keep it going. We have to recognize no one is watching out for us. Just like you learn when you become an adult, that you have to take care of yourself, so do humans. We have been in the adolescent stages for so long. Being "watched over" and following our "parent's" rules. Just like there is no standard moment in time for a person to become an adult, (they do it when they have to, need to, know how to) so too do humans. We need to take control of our destiny and make sure we survive. And what's the easiest way to do that? To improve our current situation to make easier for the next generation. That's life, people. That's what we do for our own children. Why is it so hard to see that goal for the entire human race.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Mike

      You tried to show that there is a point by going on and on and on about doing the best for yourself and the human race... well, ok, did you come to a point in that posting. From what I can gather and correct me if I am wrong the point to anti-religious people posting stuff on here bashing somebody's beliefs is to do the best for the human race. Did I get that correct? makes little sense but ok.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Matt

      I was really just replying to one sentence. "If you really don't believe in anything there is no point to any of it anyways."

      October 10, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Mike

      Which was my point in the beginning if you have no beliefs then why bash somebody that does? If somebody hides behind their religion to be a jerk or whatever then that is one thing but most religions I know lead people to be better people. If they are jerks then they are just jerks.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Matt

      Ah, sorry I took your sentence wayyyy more broad than was intended. Still, the point stands I guess. And yes I think religions do attempt to lead people to be better people. But as someone on the outside looking in, I can tell you, they get it wrong more often than right.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  20. yeasayer

    Why would anyone complain about Mormonism? It's an American product. Made in the USA.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      It's one product we need to export...to Kolob, for good.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Rebecca

      Yep, just like Jazz. Pure-D made in the U.S.A.

      October 10, 2011 at 3:33 am |
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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.