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. Huh?

    Thanks Steve for setting the record straight. Mormons are not Christians. It is like a Muslim saying they're a Christian. I'm sorry, but they're not. Why would they even claim to be one when they don't believe the same things? It doesn't make sense. It's almost like they're ashamed to just be who they are: Mormon, or maybe somewhere inside them, there's this itching feeling that something is off so they try to pass as a Christian.

    June 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Tunes

    Religions established before the Age of Enlightenment (Catholicism, Islam) are rife with paganism and magic. Religions established after the Age of Enlightenment (Scientology, Mormonism) are frauds and cults. But I despise socialism even more. I'm voting Romey.

    June 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  3. NR Admin


    June 21, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  4. NR Admin

    Its not done yet, but you think this page lists some of Mormanism's strangest beliefs, this site will knock your socks off: http://www.nottromney.com. Check it out.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • subtleBias

      If Mormonism isn't even spelled right, makes it hard to believe much thought was put in to it.

      June 28, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  5. AJ

    Who wants a president who believes that The Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Mississippi? How about the fact that mormons believe that Naitve Americans are actually violent Jews, who warred so much God changed the color of their skin to "red" to resemble all of their blood-shed?? What about the fact that no other living human ever saw the "sacred plates" which Joseph Smith "dug up in the woods"? What about the fact that Joseph Smith put the plates into a top hat, stuck his face inside the openning, and translated the ancient writing to english using magical stones, and "read" it to people sitting on the other side of the room?

    Absolutely ridiculous right? I mean who would believe THAT? How could Mormonism be anymore of a fraud??

    Oh yea!!! The wife of the newspaper publisher who agreed to print the book of mormon was college educated and, unlike her husband, was convinced that JS was a scamming fraud. She took his "original translation" and hid it, and told her husband if JS was really a prophet, he could do the same thing again. SO the publisher went back to JS and asked him to re-do it. The second script was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the original, and the SECOND translation was published into the book of Mormon.

    LMAO. Im not an Obama fan, but WOW, you would litterally have to be mentally retarded to vote for someone from a cult like this...

    June 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • AJ


      June 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • fountainsofdave

      Those aren't facts. There were other witnesses who saw the plates. Also, Joseph Smith never retranslated the same part that manuscript that had been stolen.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • R P Freeding

      Wow, AJ. You got a number of details wrong. Check your "facts" before you post.

      In the belief of some Mormons, The Garden of Eden was located east of Jackson County, Missouri and then Noah's Ark got people to what we now call the Old World. You incorrectly put Mississippi.
      Some Native Americans were descended from Lehites. And sometimes they were violent and sometimes they were not. Those who were violent varied every few generations. (Are you suggesting that no tribes fought other tribes?) The violent ones were cursed with idleness and lack of prosperity. Changes in skin color were a genetic result of inter-marrying with native peoples already here.
      More than 14 other people saw the plates with the writing that is most likely Meroitic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meroitic_alphabet ). Among the 14 were some family members, but also others; they were men and women.
      I wear glasses for reading the computer, so if Joseph Smith, Jr. wore spectacles to translate it doesn't sound so odd. What is odd to a non-believer is that he saw visions (images as well as words and people and angels) through such stones as ancient Biblical seers have (one discussion with more details is here: http://seerstone.blogspot.com/2006/01/abraham-and-urim-and-thummim.html )
      Other side of the table more often than other side of the room.

      Your last idea about a 2nd translation is totally fabricated, can you give the URL that posted the lie or another reference/source?

      June 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • subtleBias

      AJ Christ tells you not to lie; in both the Bible, and the Book of Mormon. You should probably at least read one of them. 🙂

      June 28, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  6. FreeAtLast

    Edit: It was cultic Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., a con artist/consummate liar and adulterer, who made other men's wives, single women and teenage girls young enough to be HIS DAUGHTERS his plural wives – see http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org for details – who said that the "keystone" of the Latter-day Saint religion, the Book of Mormon (BoM), is "the most correct of any book on earth". Science has proven – irrefutably – that the BoM is a work of fiction.

    April 18, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • subtleBias

      Science has yet to prove any religion's teaching to be definitely true, so this doesn't make Mormonism any different than any other religion. I'm very sorry you feel this way, especially if you truly were a missionary at one time.

      June 28, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  7. FreeAtLast

    What is Mormonism? As someone who was raised in it and did a full-time mission marketing the “General Electric of American religion”, quoting a Newsweek article in June 2011, the answer can be distilled into half a dozen words: one of history's most successful frauds.

    It was cultic Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., a con artist/consummate liar and adulterer who made other men's wives, single women and teenage girls young enough to be his plural wives – see http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org for details – who said that the "keystone" of the Latter-day Saint religion, the Book of Mormon (BoM), is "the most correct of any book on earth". Science has proven – irrefutably – that the BoM is a work of fiction.

    The BoM says that elephants, chariots, silk, synagogues, horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep, a 7-day week (with a Sabbath!), Hebrew religious beliefs, 'reformed Egyptian', gold & silver currency, wheat & barley, king-led societies, vast numbers of lighter-skinned Americans of Hebrew ancestry, and 'cursed' Israelites who became the forefathers of Native Americans ('Lamanites') were all part of the ancient Americas!

    "And I testify that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Mormon, along with The Lord of the Rings is true! For I have seen both with my own eyes, and God has given me a testi-monkey that it is part of His one, true church and religion!"

    Romney should have his head examined for staying in the chronically dishonest and ethically bankrupt Morg (Mormon Church) for more than half a century! Maybe the White Wizard will intervene and save America at the last moment!

    Mormonism is not only a DEMONSTRABLE FRAUD, it's one of history's wackier religions! Freemasonry-derived 'secret' handshakes and phrases to get into heaven – PULL-EEZ!

    April 18, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  8. Laughing baby videos

    Hello very nice website!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I'll bookmark your web site and take the feeds additionally?I'm satisfied to seek out a lot of helpful info here within the submit, we need work out more strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

    April 4, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  9. Laughing My Ass Off

    Reading all the holy books to make a serious judgement for yourself as to what is true and what is false is not something most people want to undertake. It's a lot of work! Most religious people and athiests alike are too lazy to even attempt to read the book/s of any single religion let alone all of them. So they just settle in their belief or non belief and then insult each other without true understanding of their argument. If religion is so worth debating about, then I would suggest, for your benefit, to read the bible (and I mean every book of the bible), the Quoran, and then visit an Atheist organization website to read their arguments. Only AFTER you've done that would you be in a position to make an argument. -from a Muslim *Peace

    March 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • subtleBias


      June 28, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  10. Rick

    This animated video, produced by a Christian research organization, highlights Mormon teachings (based on Mormon sources) not commonly known by many LDS followers, nor made known to the public by the LDS organization.

    January 13, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Justin W.

      Are there really this many religious bigots and prejudice people in our country that was founded on relgious freedom? you people should be ashamed of your comments. I am not a mormon, have I actually been to a mormon church, yes I have. Were there pictures up on the walls of Christ and were there people rejoicing in the church for their Redeemer and Savior the Son of God who died on the wall, yes. Were these Christian Latter Day Saints sincere in their love of God and respect of all people? Yes they were. If you call yourself a Christian and you treat people as a hypocritical Christian such as the comments I'm reading, I would rather associate myself with the Mormons then. Shameful pride and prejudice. I dont care what your pastors teach you in their doctrine of hate for Latter Day Saint people. Hatred in the name of Christianity and religion has been perpetuated for too long in our world. Either end the hatred and name calling towards human beings, or end religion. The irony, your spewing your hatred and un-educated mantra in the name of Christ when HE, our Savior taught tolerance and love. Stop listening to what you pastors teach people and read your bible and get on your knees and pray and find God. Or else keep your comments to yourself. Golden Rule. Remember America.

      April 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • R P Freeding

      Funny that the cartoons makers (Anti-Mormons) thought a Spirit child would need diapers, when only physical beings need food. In other words, Spirits don't have to eat to keep living, they are eternal according to Mormons.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • fountainsofdave

      If you want to know what we believe go here: http://www.mormon.org/beliefs

      June 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Damian

      @Justin W...All I have to say is, very well stated! Thank you.

      June 22, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  11. kristina

    ONLY THRU JESUS CHRIST CAN THE HUMAN RACE GET INTO HEAVEN. Jesus is a gift from God, and by accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior, You will get into Heaven.

    November 26, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  12. Andrew Hall

    Can't Mormons become gods and get their own planet to inhabit with celestial babies that they create? I think Mormonism has the best after-life plan of all. Too bad it's not true... just like all the other Sky Fairy stories.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  13. Bill Fitzgerald

    What a blessing the Holy Ghost is. A testifier of truth. So simple. Read the Book of Mormon, Pray for your own answer. Then cast aside all of the winds of doctrine blowing around in this world.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  14. ___.__

    When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  15. middleoftheroad

    Read the changing World of Mormonism

    November 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  16. Dave

    What to know what Mormons believe? Go to:


    November 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  17. tkindsm

    One of my best friends growing up was Mormon and all i can say is Mormans are good people. Never met a friendlier more grounded group of people. Family is very important to them and i'd be more then fine with a Morman President.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Rose

      Friendly until you try to leave this false religion. Then, it turns ugly.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • davis

      Rose: I'm a gay hiv + LDS, I was raised LDS, All my friends were LDS, My Parents were LDS before I was borne. I decided to change my life and I did, I'm happy and I don't regret anything I learned in the church or about our Lord and God Jesus Christ. I'm very sorry if it turn ugly for you, but I will strongly recommend you to quit saying crap about "it turns ugly" since no church leader or member will be after you if you don't want to be close to them. GET A LIFE and let the LDS on their life, remember, you are not that special, nobody is. Bye

      June 21, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  18. The Grizz

    The fruit has to fall off a good tree or vine. Teaching another gosple is expressly forbidded by God ... so the tree (Vine) is bad. The whole Joe Smith story is full of holes and lies...research well b4 you write this garbage.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • subtleBias

      I think you're trying to say a form of "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matt 7:16. If you personally know a practicing mormon and their family, that phrase might not go against mormonism. Taking your own advice by looking for that which brings forth good fruit, as well as researching before posting "garbage" is an excellent insight.

      June 28, 2012 at 2:19 am |
  19. Anonymoussource

    As stated...from an outsider'sperspective who doesn't belong to a denomination, but was raised in a very Christian home....

    I am amused at the striking similarities of Christ, the saducees and the pharisees.

    You see, most Mormons (or latter day saints as they seem to prefer) consider themselves Christian. My observation is more on their fruits (by their fruits you shall know them). Im in business, and most of my dealings with Mormons have shown me that they are kind, honest, hard working, family oriented, and profess love. I would trust them with a handshake basically.

    Then you have pastors like this guy, and many commenters on here that say they are Christian...yet keep saying how they are the ones that are true followers of Christ, and then proceed to label, and point out ways that mormos aren't Christians. Letter of the law it seems... This resembles when Christ was on the earth, and the saducees and Pharisees were quick to say that they followed the law (as they interpret it), and then point to Christ and try to tear him down and label him because he wasn't what their interpretation of the law was.

    Don't people see the irony here?

    October 11, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Sam

      Beautifully written!

      November 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Watchthevideo


      Mormons are great people, with great values, and you can be a great person and have great values while following any religion. From an objective point of view, there are just major contradictions between Christianity and Mormonism. If divinely inspired, things like the Bible and the book of Mormon should compliment each other in every way, not compliment each other in a lot of ways, and then contradict each other in others.

      The video gives a lot of good insights, and I think it could spark a lot of good questions that all Mormon's should research themselves!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Jerry

      I guess that goes both ways. The Mormon church teaches that believers of ALL other religions are apostates and the LDS church is the only true Christian religion.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Eric Smith

      Well said! I appreciate and agree with this analogy.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  20. Erin

    A tidy and concise list of a few things to know about the LDS faith. For those wanting more detail and depth you can also go to mormon.org or lds.org.

    October 10, 2011 at 2:20 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.