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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. WillH85

    If it looks like a cult, acts like a cult, probably is a cult. Even after doing research on the "religion" online, the best info I ever got on it still came from the South Park episode.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Badpav

      I've got to say, Fundamentalist christians at leas tare honest. Some of us are crack pots, but we're forthright crackpots. That doesn't seem to be the case with the LDS church that seems to misrepresent word with different meanings at times. disappointing.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Luther Butler

    Isn't the picture of the women in colored dresses of a break away Mormon group in Texas? This group recently were separated from their children until they were investigated. Their leader is in prison.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Wade Wilson

      Yes it looks like it is the FLDS church. Regular Mormons don't look anything like that.

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

      Yes, there have been literally hundreds of different mormon churches that have arisen from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. The author does not point that out in the written text, maybe he did in the video, but the prarie dresses are worn by a few of the polygmist groups that follow Smith's teachings about polygamy. The mainstream LDS church (the one the author is talking about) wear modern clothes and stopped new plural marriages in the early 20th century, and stopped the practice of it once the old polygs died off.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  3. Artist

    What I find interesting is not one mormon has commented on the use of seer stones as part fo the creation of their church??????

    June 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • MikeBell

      Are you not aware of the Old Testament account of the Tabernacle?
      The Breast Plate with Stones representing each tribe of Israel along with the Urim and Thummin?
      Making a mockery of others is surely something our civilized world has risen above.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Artist

      MikeBell

      Are you not aware of the Old Testament account of the Tabernacle?
      The Breast Plate with Stones representing each tribe of Israel along with the Urim and Thummin?
      Making a mockery of others is surely something our civilized world has risen above.

      ---–
      Yes I am aware of it. It is now 2011. I assume you might be mormon. What are your views on Joseph using seer stones and looking into a hat?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • NoBS

      "Making a mockery of others is surely something our civilized world has risen above." You should tell that to the Utah Mormons. They don't seem to realize that when they are the majority, it's still not ok to hate people and belittle them.

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

    3 and 5 are both incorrect. It is true that the LDS church claims to have about 14 million members, but they don't. They continue to count all the mormons who quit being mormons as mormons until they reach the age of 110. Census records in countries where religion is a question asked points out the dishonest membership numbers. In Chile the 2000 census reported that there were 115K mormons in Chile, the LDS church claimed over 500k. There are actually more ex-mormons in the world than there are mormons so many people leave the LDS church.

    As for polygamy – the LDS church issued a press release in 1890 claiming that it had stopped practicing polygamy. But they had not done so. Joseph F. Smith, for example, a mormon prophet until his death in 1918 had 11 children with his multiple wives AFTER the 1890 "manifesto." What actually happened is that in 1906 or 1909 (it is disputed) the mainstream LDS stopped performing NEW plural marriages. They stopped practicing polygamy when the old polygamists died off. The last know mainstream LDS polygamists were two cousins of Mitt Romney and the grandfather of current LDS apostle Eyring. WHen one of the sister wives died in 1954, that marriage became monogamous and the practice of polygamy in the mainsteram LDS church ended.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Segev Stormlord

      Honestly? How else WOULD you cease polygamy if you didn't wish to cause pain and hardship to those who were already practicing? Would you break up the families and make the women now no longer married to their husbands be single mothers? Would you try to annul the marriages so the children are legally born out of wedlock?

      When people practice something in good faith – and you can't justifiably claim that all the people involved were doing something horrible they knew was wrong – you don't change the rules on them mid-stride and make them lawbreakers retroactively. While I know a lot of people view polygamy as if it were really just some form of lustful woman-hogging, consider it from the women's perspective: they are now married, even if to a man with other wives. In a culture where a single mother is going to have a hard time finding a new husband, how cruel would you have to be to insist that the man pick only one woman to remain married to, and cast the others off as if they were unwanted concubines?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  5. stubby

    When you have CNN, a left-leaning news orginization, sugar-coating the Moron faith, Obama's done.

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

      Lol

      June 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • mary

      Lol so true

      June 24, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  6. Eric

    I think I like Bill Maher's explanation of Mormonism and Scientology the best: [paraphrasing] "When these new religions appeared, all the 'good crazy' had already been taken, so they had to raise the bar quite a bit."

    June 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Musica1

      By "new religions", he meant Christianity, right? Because Mormons worship Christ and live by His teachings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself was founded in the 1800's, which isn't much newer than other protestant branches of Christianity. The Baptist Church, for instance, is traced back to a pastor named John Smyth in Amstedam in 1609. And The Methodist Church is even newer, being started by John Wesley in the 1700's.

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

    Perhaps the fastest growing, and most insidious, idiotic cult today. Do these people REALLY believe their god is living on a planet orbiting a sun called Kolob? I don't think so. Mormonism appeals because it encourages weak-willed people to let someone else do their thinking for them. Very, very sad. And dangerous. See Nazi Germany for a good look at what happens when people stop thinking for themselves.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • MikeBell

      You don't even have that right. Obvious maligning and spin. Even liberals have more respect for others than you.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Wade Wilson

      All organized religions are full of weak willed people that have someone do their thinking for them. Nothing new there regardless about it being about mormons. Do you actually know mormons or making a critical comment about something you know nothing about? I am surrounded by them all day and there is nothing crazy about them. I've seen crazyier behavior from southern Baptists than I ever have from a mormon.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Steve

      They are not fastest growing anything let alone even fast. They are growing in the US slower than the population rate as a whole, same for the world. They are are losing market share.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Someone Somewhere

      Nevermind MikeBell.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Common Sense

      You can always tell when someone is desperate to prove a point they don't have: Nazi references begin where common sense and civil discourse end.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Andrew M.

    By their works ye shall know them... the best way to weed out the insane comments on this blog from the truth is to come see for yourself. Visit a church house of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. All visitors are welcome. I challenge those of you who are honestly wanting to know more about the Mormon faith, to visit a church house and stay for sacrament meeting. It's only an hour. Meeting houses located in every metro area and many smaller communities. Visit LDS . org to find a meeting house near you!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Someone Somewhere

      Aside from the super-secret underwear, just what does the Kool-aid taste like?

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

      google "why mormons are wrong"

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

      No thanks, I'd reather go to a Museum of natural science. At least the stuff you read and see there is supported by some facts.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Sue

      Been there, done that. Mormonism is not based in reality, it's based on the words of a known liar.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Wade Wilson

      You don't even have to go to church. Just talk to them, I have lots of Mormon neighbors and they are great. They invite me to church and I politely turn them down but they are never rude or selfish and are always willing to help. More people should behave like them, the world would be a better place.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Matt

      I agree with Andrew. If you truly wish to know about something take the time to learn about it. Just spouting off things you heard about a religious group, person, or even race of people without actually getting to know anything about them is just plain ignorant. I study Theology as a hobby, thats means I take time to learn about many different religions. They all have different beliefs and ways of thinking, but it doesn't mean that we should judge them.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • spr

      @wade of course they are nice because if they convert you, then you will be helping them become a god themselves over their own planet

      June 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Wade Wilson

      @spr Who cares what they believe? If they treat others with respect and care about helping regardless about getting anything in return whats wrong with that? I will never align myself with any organized religion because I think they cause more problems than not but as far as just being great human beings that represent the best of humanity in regards to charity, honesty and support. What religion do you practice spr? Let's put yours under microscope.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Badpav

      Wade, what u believe matters a lot, at least in the bible it does. there are plenty of nice non-believers, but nice isn't a prerequisite for being a believer, (per se that is. it is a ramification). belief is.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  9. China is hell

    China is the worst cult in human history. There are 1.5 billion people enslaved in this cult, some willing, others not. The penalties for not believing include torture, imprisonment, and death. This cult has a mandate to grow, and will never be satisfied at its numbers, geography, or power.

    If I could tell the Americans one thing. Save yourselves from us. There is an evil spirit over our land, it is too late for us. Save yourselves. From us.

    Save yourselves from hell on earth.

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

      sorry. not a cult. and china has good and bad, like other countries.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  10. john

    Your content is good and correct, but I am with CF on this one, why the picture of some tiny, obscure off shoot of over a 100 years ago? Wow, how misleading. When will the madness end? MORMONS DON'T PRACTICE POLYGAMY!!! Those who do aren't Mormons. For crying out loud.

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

      That's right, they're actually an even crazier derivative cult called the FLDS

      June 24, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  11. jams

    I am LMAO at the picture for this story. Those are not mormons, they are polygamists... I live in Utah, and I am not mormon nor would I ever want to be-their beliefs are CRAZY!!

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

      They believe in the book of mormon and the prophet Joseph, follow his teachings more closely than the mainstream LDS church does and they are not mormons? lol There are hundreds of mormon churches out there, just because you belong to the largest one doesn't mean the others do not exist. I will agree with you if you were to say the author does a poor job of explaining that the fundy mormons who follow Smith's teachings on polygamy today are not the same thing as mainstream LDS.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      they are fringe mormons but consider themselves mormans. sadly, like the nutty guy who hates gays and pickets cemeteries is still a christian.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Mary T

    I am not Mormon, but know quite a bit about the religion. The article did a great job basically explaining an outline of beliefs. The image with the prairie dresses is fictional – you wouldn't know most Mormons on the street. Mormons differ from state to state, town to town, and family to family. Some are strict, some are liberal, and some are in the middle. They are some of the nicest, most hard working people I know, although I don't want to practice the religion. As far as running for President? It's a country where any religion is free to become a public leader – I say Go For It !!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Luther Butler

    I grew up close to Mormon town. Some were my best friends, but I wouldn't vote for one. If they don't put Mormonism first they are not good Mormons. Their motto is, "screw the Gentiles." Gentiles are people who aren't Mormons.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Richard

      Their motto is "screw the Gentiles"? Are you kidding me? That is completely false. Most Mormons are Gentiles.

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

      That is such bull crap!
      Mormons have more respect for others than any other religion or non-religion.
      Haven't you read their 'Articles of Faith'?
      There is no such guile that you claim.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • stubby

      You mean like Muslims?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • ColinO

      What about gay people and gay rights? How tolerant are Mormons of them? I don't have a problem with Mormons. I don't have a problem with people of any religion really. I've had Mormon friends and co-workers. They generally are extremely friendly and caring people. But they are also extremely conservative in some of their views, and when those people take public office, those views come with them. Eventually, laws will try to pass that support those views, and the elimination of rights of others. This can't happen. Let them have their religion, but it needs to stay out of government. If a Mormon presidential candidate can say they'll with approach every issue with an impartial eye, and support, above all else, the equal rights of all human beings, that's a step in the right direction for a Mormon president.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  14. JAKE

    they are some of the more respectable group of people ive known. as far as jimbos statement goes they do try to convert but what religion doesnt. baptist call it saving catholics had the crusades. i dont think judging a man on his religious background should b the main concern on whether or not theyd make a good candidate.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  15. Brandon

    Is it true that Mormon women cut loose at masquerade and costume parties?

    June 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  16. found writings

    he found ancient writings and whaaaat?
    are you kidding me?

    June 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Sue

      Seriously, I'm glad there's actual evidence to back of ancient civilizations in the USA....oh wait, there's no evidence at all.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • kormallain

      I think someone gave him some mushrooms and a pen.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Andrew

    I just want some of those magic granny panties!

    June 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  18. Badpav

    This article is pathetic. Its analagous to explaining cars to someone by saying they can be red.

    How about, in the belief section, we start with what Mormans BELIEVE???

    1. It's works based, (i.e. good works are a, if not the, key mechanism for salvation)
    2. Christ and Satan were born of a physical relationship sired by YaWeH (God)
    3. The God of the bible is only the God of this planet, that is to say that there are many gods
    4. One can become a god, and God as we know him was once a man.

    This is quite different from the beliefs of christianity. (and IMHO outside of the realm of othodoxy). PLEASE write a real article.

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

      If anyone wants to know what Mormons believe, just do a search for "13 articles of faith lds"

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

      These aren't clear. WHen it says God, who is God? is there only one?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Rich

      You are stating common misconceptions:
      1. The Book of Mormon says: "there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." Sure we believe in keeping commandments, the savior said "If ye love me, keep my commandments" John 14:15
      2. Christ, Lucifer and all of us have a common SPIRITUAL father, not physical.
      3. I agree with you and the God of the Bible is the God of the Book of Mormon
      4. Christ said in closing the Sermon on the Mount: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Now tell me, just how is Heavenly Father perfect except he be God? How can we become perfect like him, if we do not become as God?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Chazzwick

      Here's some clarifications to your points

      1. We believe that we are saved by grace after all we can do. Yes we do a lot, but at the end of the day, it is only by God's grace that we are saved.
      2. We are all spiritual offspring of God, there is a lot of debate on this, but Mormons believe that God created or formed all spiritual beings and that include Lucifer, Jehovah, Badpav, Chazzwick, Adam, Eve, Hitler, and so on. Lucifer was denied a physical body because of his rebellion.
      3. The God of the bible is Jesus Christ.
      4. Alongside and because of Jesus Christ, we can inherit ALL that the Father has. The "have your own world bit" is a poor transcription of this belief. We believe that we will continue progressing and growing for all of eternity and really we have no clue what all that may entail. I prefer it to sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp and looking at God with sappy eyes for all of eternity.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Badpav

      last week on moromonism.org chat they confirmed that one can become a God. They were clear that it was a nuanced belief that is easily taken out of context, but nontheless true. This seems distinct from christian belief.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  19. Stephanie

    CULT CULT CULT CULT CULT and just WEIRD.

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

      Yeah, just like all of Christianity.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  20. Stephanie

    It's a CULT.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Michael T

      I can tell your southern Baptist just in your three words. Sad.

      June 24, 2011 at 3:54 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.