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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. All religions are a big pile of dung!

    enough said.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  2. Gary

    Re: Coke–untrue. Mormons are NOT supposed to use caffeine products.

    And why is there a picture of a group of Mennonites with this article?

    June 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Kayde

      Nowhere does it say in "Mormon doctrine" that you cannot have caffeine. I am a "mormon" and while writing this I am drinking a Mountain Dew! Some members choose not to have caffeine but that doesn't mean you can't. I am very active in my faith, in fact, I serve in my congregation as a relief society president. If I want to drink a coke....no one is going to stop me and tell me I am evil.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  3. spr

    mormons (including mitt romney) believe that God lives on Planet Kolob. – TRUE

    mormons believe that native americans (in dians) are decendants of the lost tribe of israel – TRUE
    since Joesph Smith concocted that story, archaeologists have since proven that native americans are decendants of asian nomads. DNA evidence has proven that this is false, yet mormons continue to believe.

    mormons wear unde rwear from the 1800's – TRUE.

    Joesph Smith was a convicted conman and felon before he translated the golden plates – TRUE

    Mormons believe there is a local god over this planet (sort of like local/state/federal gov't) that they worship too (polytheism). Mormons all intend to be gods themselves some day, and are helping to earn their exaltation to godhood by going door to door and talking to people and converting them. Each mormon intends to have many wives in heaven, carrying on multiple ss e x relations throughout eternity, until they have enough children to populate their own earth, so they can be "Heavenly Father" over their own planet. – TRUE

    Joeseph Smith taught that there were inhabitants on the moon, and Brigham Young taught there were inhabitants on the sun as well – TRUE

    June 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jim

      Technically the lost tribe thing is the fault of a poor translation by a Catholic theologian in the Middle Ages. The Catholic church and protestant denominations believed in it until the late 19th century. Between the translation and that time it was even incorporated by some into the Prestor John mythology. While in reality the two 'lost' tribes merely broke away from the main kingdom of Israel and formed their own kingdom in what is now southern Lebanon.

      It isn't any more silly to believe the native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel than it is to think they moved to India/East Africa/China before the time of Christ and then converted to Christianity.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ken

      Well, it's interesting that spr is utilizing the same tactics as Satan. Sprinkle a little truth with a ton of lies. You two will get along just well in your next life. http://www.mormon.org

      June 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Theodore

      Actually I go commando most of the time.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • spr

      you refute these facts? where is your response?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • spr

      @Theo, if you don't wear your sacred 1800's pantaloons you offend god (the local god, not the bigger God).

      June 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Theodore

      I think whichever one is watching is impressed enough that it doesn't matter.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Jett

      DNA evidence? Really? Has it ever occurred to you that "modern Jewish populations don’t necessarily have all of
      the genes that those in ancient Jerusalem did 2,000 years ago" (Rappleye, 2010, p.3). "Another complication of tracking the gene pool deals with the Indians when the Euporean explorers arrived. In addition to guns and steel, they also brought disease that wiped out about 95 percent of the population, subsequently narrowing and altering the genetic pool" (Rappleye, 2010, p. 2). The genetic composition of both modern Jews and modern Indians looks nothing like the genetic makeup of these popluations 20 centuries ago. So-called DNA testing works fine for paternity tests, not so well for anthropological studies dating back even a few hundred years.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • spr

      @Jett – perhaps you missed that day in 4th grade where they discussed the land bridge from alaska to russia and how over 100,000's of years northeastern asian immigrants populated america. This DNA link has been proven... where as middle eastern people (southwest asians) DNA differs greatly

      June 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • paige

      a. Are you southern Baptist?
      b. You have got some facts pretty messed up.
      c. I am a mormon and have been for many years. You say mormons all believe those things you listed -FALSE

      Lets give you guys some facts. You can find me and other ACTUAL mormons at mormon.org who would be more than happy to answer your questions. 😀

      June 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • NoBS

      Please don't visit mormon.org. It's propaganda and lies as much as the apologists on this thread do.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      I'm not going to bother with most of spr's post, but I feel the need to point out the neither Smith nor Young ever claimed that the "inhabitants on the moon/sun" was doctrine. They were men as well as prophets, and when God did not give them revelation on a subject, they still were free to speculate. And that's all those were, was speculation.

      Regarding "local God" over our world...I have no idea where you get that from. God the Father is the only God we worship, and we worship Him in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no other God over this world to our doctrinal knowledge.

      The technical term for believing that there are or might be more than one god, but only worshipping one, is "polylatric," by the way. Mormons are arguably polylatric, but we are not polytheistic; we worship no God save our Heavenly Father, Who is pretty much the same God as worshipped by other Christian denominations, insofar as all of us believe He is the God of the Bible.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Nog

      SPR... on the DNA thing... I'm so glad you asked. Go look up haplogroup X yes you're right all the central american people typically all do have Asian DNA... However, if you look at the Hopewell indians DNA in the great lakes region and other parts of newengland in the US, there DNA strikingly resembles that of the Jews. Haplogroup X. go look it up.

      How did Haplogroup X get to the US if it was not from Israel?

      Interestingly enough this is close to where Joseph Smith was directed to locate the Golden Plates...

      http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org

      June 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. BT Richards

    Sure… the town drunk found buried “golden tablets” then translated those from Egyptian into English. An Angel promptly took the tablets after translation. –ahh – the “no proof hypothesis" – And, buy they way, the town drunk – Joe Smith – became a hero. An entire religion is based on this craziness. It astounds me that people can actually buy into such and up surd premise. When did rational thought die? Sanity is gone in this country.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • zhawk88

      If you haven't seen the South Park episode (not the broadway thing) on Mormans, you will love it. Freakin hilarious, and accurate too.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Brandon

      Mormonism is a cult just like every single other religion. Every single one.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • ladybugg

      I grew up in Utah.I know the religion quite well, but am not a member, and often wonder if Joseph Smith might have also been eating some strange mushrooms, or licking toads he found in the woods.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Jett

      What astounds me is the level of hatred and bigotry I see in these posts.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  5. kindasorta

    Gladys Knight became a Mormon because she couldn't become a Pip. She found out Glenn Beck was a Mormon, and thought, "Gee, ANY IDIOT can become a Mormon," and she became one, too.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jett

      Gladys joined before Beck. Get your facts straight.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  6. ruby

    The Book of Mormon did not come from the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics, that is the Pearl of Great Price. I am not a Mormon, I do not come close to believing in their 3 holy books but I would appreciate accurate reporting from CNN and its contributors.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Jason

      Actually Ruby, the Book of Mormon states (http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/1.2?lang=eng) that it was originally translated from the (reformed) Egyptian language. Wikipedia has some information about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_Egyptian

      June 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  7. spr

    mormons (including mitt romney) believe that God lives on Planet Kolob.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • justaguy

      Not true. The exact location of "heaven" is unknown. Kolob is a planet that is identified as a major planet near to heaven. Kolob's location is also unknown. Mormons do not believe that heaven is located in the atmosphere around earth.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  8. jracforr

    THE MORMON CHURCH REPEAT THE WORK OF NOAH'S GREAT GRANDFATHER ENOCH , WHO PREACHED FOR 350 YEARS FOLLOWING WHICH THE CHURCH WAS WAS RAPTURED OR TAKEN TO HEAVEN. LEAVING BEHIND ONLY THE FAMILY THAT WOULD PRODUCE NOAH HE PREACHED IN VAIN AND ONLY HIS SONS AND WIFE FOLLOWED HIM INTO THE ARK AND WERE SAVED FROM THAT PART OF THE WORLD. IF THE MORMON CHURCH IS FACT OR FICTION WE WILL FIND OUT JUST AS OUR ANCESTORS DID

    June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Robert

      I think your Caps Lock key is on.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • kindasorta

      NO NEED TO SHOUT!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  9. David, CA

    3 Words- Money. Making. Cult.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Justin, AZ

      And this is different from every other organized religion how??

      June 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  10. Mike

    An otherwise good article is completely discredited by the fact that the auther used a picture of people who are not Mormon.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • kindasorta

      I, too, recognized the stock photo of Martians on a field trip. They dress soooo well.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Gary

      LOL–I noticed that. I believe those are Mennonites!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bob F

      I wonder why an article about Mormons has a photo of Amish people accompanying it? Can someone explain that one to me?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • delaney

      not really. you have to watch the video. the video explains that those guys are a different branch. i dont know why the video has that as the sample pic. probably because its what most people see when they hear the word mormon.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  11. Trish

    Hey guys, will you visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine is fighting for her life... Thank you

    June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  12. PropagandaMuch?

    11. Mormons believe that their church leaders speak directly to God. Therefore, if you elect a Mormon president, you will be effectively electing the Mormon church to lead the United States...ie. Theocracy.

    12. The angel's name was Moroni....so why not call them Morons? (thanks Mr. Kushner...)

    June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • carolpierpont

      perfect!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jett

      Don't most people who pray believe they are speaking directly to God?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • logicistruth

      Yes when we pray we are talking straight to God, but he doesent talk back, same with these peopel God doesent talk back to them, they just do what they believe is right. If its wrong, and he fallows Gods "words" where will that put the US. Same as Terrorist believing they heard God tell them that all americans must die, innocent or not. So tell me, why we should trust the person hearing voices?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Peter

    In Russia they used to kill each other over how many fingers a true Christian used when crossing themselves. Arguments over who is a real Christian don't seem very Christian to me.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  14. CF

    CNN: "Let's explain Mormonism by putting a massive picture of a group of people on the front page who are NOT Mormons".

    POLYGAMY DOES NOT EXIST IN THE MORMON CHURCH AND HASN'T FOR OVER 100 YEARS! THOSE WHO PRACTICE IT ARE QUICKLY EXCOMMUNICATED.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Laughing

      look at #5

      June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • GetReal

      Actually they ARE Mormons they have chosen to continue to respect the wishes of the original founder of the Church. Your Prophet practiced polygamy right? SO if he was wrong then, what else was he wrong about. Latter day Saints just chose to drop polygamy from their faith due to the pressure of society. Now you want separation because they look so out of whack from society and your current beliefs. How do you think the rest of America sees you? Blacks were shunned early on as well and could not hold the preisthood, oops civil rights movement changed Gods Mind (Obviosly since I am sure the latter day prophet didn't make that call on his own, right?)

      GetReal!

      June 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jett

      To "GetReal": Who said he was wrong? Not Mormons.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      sorry. the mormons don't get off the hook that easily, anymore than christians get off the hook for the nutty preacher who protests soldiers funerals because they are mad about gayness.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Mormon Garbage

    These 19 year old kids keep coming to my door even though it says NO SOLICITING. Does the brainwash also prevent them from reading? Keep the mosquitoes away!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jett

      They are not soliciting for anything. What they have they simply want to give away, for free. They want to share, not sell.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • NoBS

      If you tell them you're not interested, they'll ask "can I talk to your kids?" This happened to me just a couple of weeks ago. They have no sense of propriety... it's all about the conversion numbers. What church would do that?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  16. Rob Morrow

    I am a member for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and I appreciate the correct information that was shared this story. Someone did their homework. I certainly don't expect people to accept all, or any, of our beliefs, but it is nice to see correct infomation being reported, in a fair way. I travel a lot for my work and I am always amazed how many people still honestly ask me how many wives I have (my answer, "the best ONE in the world"). More info can be found at Mormon.org (Church official website).

    June 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jimbo

      You can also learn a lot if you type in "Banned Mormon Cartoon" on youtube.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • GetReal

      Sad thing is there is a ton of correct information out there they you will totally object to.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • lisa

      Weren't you on Numbers? I thought you were a Jew?

      June 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  17. Farhibide

    I married into a Mormon family and had a civil ceremony in a Mormon church. Despite how the media makes them seem, non-fundamentalist LDS are pretty much normal. You'd have a hard time picking them out on the street. By the way, I haven't experienced any pressure to convert (and don't plan to) with the exception of some hints from my mother-in-law, which is pretty much a given in any family.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Farhibide

      I should mention that I don't live in Utah or anywhere near it.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • NoBS

      You bring up a good point. There is a vast difference between Mormon culture in general and Mormon culture in Utah. If you lived in Utah, I would be willing to bet your experience would have been vastly different.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  18. John T

    Can you pass me a bottle of Coke.....oh wait

    June 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • CWR

      What does that have to do with anything? Mormons drink coke lol

      June 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      I'd pass you a bottle of coke, but all I have is mountain dew...

      (The Word of Wisdom, which is the bit of doctrine that involves the closest thing to 'dietary laws' mormons have, proscribes "hot drinks," later clarified to refer to "coffee and tea" by another prophet and not to hot chocolate, not "caffeine." There ARE mormons – many of them – who assume that it is the caffiene that is meant when this advisory revelation speaks of "hot drinks" in this context. It is not, however, official church position. Honestly? I probably drink too much soda and caffeine, which violates a different part of the word of wisdom about "all things in moderation," but nothing in the word of wisdom or later clarifying revelations from our Prophets forbids caffeine.

      The word of wisdom is also where we get our "no alcohol" and "no smoking or recreational drugs" type rules.)

      June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  19. Jimbo

    11. They will try to convert you at all costs if you give them an inch of interests. They don't care what your current situation is and they will be willing to break apart a perfectly good family to get just one new member that will pay up.

    12. They will tell you that dinosaurs were put here by god as a test to question your faith. Even though Dinosaur National Monument is in Utah.

    13. If you move to Utah their first order of business will be to come by your house with and be super nice to you to find out your denomination. When they find out you aren't mormon they will be super nice to you and try to slowy get you to conform. When they realize you won't conform, they will not even look at you and make you feel not welcome until you leave their state they feel that is theirs and not owned by the USA.

    14. They will take over the government if they could. The liquor stores in Utah are ran by the government and they don't even have refridgerators to keep the beer cold. Why would they, they don't care if they make a profit. Good luck finding a liquor store when they are required to be hidden.

    15. They are pretty much the nicest people on earth, they are great looking, the kids get good grades and they are athletic. This is what keeps the church together, at least from what I have seen. They will go to great lengths to keep this image, even if it is a false one.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Natalie

      Jimbo, you have it all wrong.

      I'm not a member, but do live in Utah, and I don't know where you think that is how it is is incorrect. I have no issues with people choosing their own religion, I mean after all we have the freedom to choose that.

      I have never ever ever been treated any different for not choosing this religion, from my neighbors, family, and co-workers.

      You need to open your eye, and let people choose what they want, they aren't hurting anyone so why the frustration.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bryant

      This is funny... I live in Utah and all the gas stations have beer in there coolers...

      June 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Bob F

      I can't imagine where you get your information! I'm a convert of many years, with a son currently serving a mission.
      – We don't break apart families. My wife is not a member of the Church.
      – I don't even understand your point about dinosaurs.
      – We, as members, are encouraged to befriend all our neighbors and associates, regardless of race, color, creed, etc.
      – Other than two Mormons wanting to become president (by the way, I wouldn't vote for either of them; I'm voting for Mr. Obama again), we have no secret desires to take over the government.
      – Good looking, athletic, good students: these don't sound like negatives to me, although I've met several Mormons who are not particularly attractive or athletic, and don't/didn't excel at school. But a false image? Again, I just don't understand your point.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • ladybugg

      I have lived in Utah all my life, and I am not Mormon. I know many individuals that are LDS, including members of my extended family, that are wonderful people. However, the church as a group of people or establishment is far from accepting, understanding, or forgiving. Look how they're treating LGBT. It is similar to the way they treated blacks not long ago. I am terrified of someone with ties to this organization having authority over our country and policies.

      BTW, our liquor laws are a bit extreme, but it is still easy enough to get a cold beer or stiff drink, if you choose. I was a bartender in Utah for many years. I am very familiar with the liquor laws, and there are plenty of ways to get around them.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  20. Jacob H

    If a picture is worth a 1000 words, the picture there negates the article. It's a picture of people wearing pastel-colored dresses in what typifies those who are NOT members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but are instead some fringe group of another faith. Mormons don't walk around like pioneers with button-up overalls and pastel colored dresses like the Amish or Mennonites. Well, some may- like my 5 wives. But not Mormons.

    ^P.S. Just kidding about having 5 wives.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:31 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.