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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. AddySadie

    Where do people get ideas about Mormonism? If you don't get something from attending an LDS/Mormon meeting or from an official church source, chances are it's inaccurate or greatly misunderstood/misrepresented.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Tom

      Ha ha so you are saying don't look at both sides of an argument, only look at one side. That blind trust in the church is why you make 10% less every month. What do they do with that money? Well here in Utah the just got done building there FOR PROFIT apartment tower that they built with cash.

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

      @Tom Don't forget that $4 billion mall they built downtown. What would Jesus need a mall for? What church builds malls?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  2. travis

    There is not a planet named Kolob. God does not live on any planet. Is it so hard to believe that Christ appeared to people all around the world? Why would he forsake anyone just because they did not live in the immediate area? BTW, I am a member of The CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST of latter-day saints. I AM A CHRISTIAN. I pray only to CHRIST. I am married to only one woman. (Believe me that's enough) My only religious goal is that come judgement day I am good enough to live in heaven with my family for the rest of eternity.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Jesus + nothing

      But that's just the point... you don't have to wonder! What kind of god would leave us sweating until we die? Jesus IS GOD, and therefore can forgive your sin and reconcile you to himself. THAT"S what gets you to heaven – realization that we can never be good enough and we need Jesus Christ to make us acceptable to God the Father. John 3.16.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Lin

      @ +nothing – you are right, it is only because of Jesus' love and sacrifice for us that we can be forgiven of our sins. Mormons do not believe that just being good can save you, you have to have faith that Jesus is your Savior. We believe that doing good works is important because the more we try to help others and follow Jesus' commandments, the more our faith in Him increases.

      June 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • ExMormon

      Travis.... I WAS a Mormon for 21 years and then I asked a simple question... what if Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet? Would the LDS church still make sense? When you compare it to the bible, there are sooooo many areas where the LDS church, and what Jesus taught, differ. Would Jesus teach one thing on earth, and then "revewl" something different to church prophets later? I don't think so. You say you pray to Jesus, but it's not the same Jesus. Your Jesus is not the Jesus described in the bible. John 10:30 says that Jesus and God are one, not one in purpose as I used to say as a Mormon. How do I know he meant he was God? Look a couple of versus down where Jesus asked the jews why they were stoning him. They said we're stoning you because you said you were God. Did he correct them? Nope. To quote your last sentense "I hope I'm good enough" you're not, nor will you ever be. Jesus knew that and diedf because of it – to cover your sins. There's nothing you can do here on earth, except trust in Him, that will get you into heaven. You can't earn your way into heaven. Romans 10:9,13. Ask yourself that question and search out the differences between the bible and mormonism.

      November 2, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • ExMormon

      one more thought.... which heaven is it that you hope to get into? Lin seems to suggest that works have nothing to do with heaven but there are three mormon heavens (terrestrial, telestial and celestial) and the works you do here in earth determine which one you get into.

      November 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  3. RoseMarv

    for LgMcB, we were married in the Catholic Church in 1961. Yes, my wife was forced to sign a paper that the kids would be raised Catholic. She did not have to convert though.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  4. Melissa

    Typo on number 3... couldn't read the rest of this because it bothered me so much.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  5. Tom

    "and wearing special undergarments". Note to self. Next time you meet a beautiful 25 year old Mormon chick, ask her about her special panties.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  6. Sashi

    Lived the faith my entire life and never once was taught about flying off to some planet to become a god. My goal is to learn to love like Christ did so I can enjoy living in his presence one day. He is the head of the gate. He taught us to judge not... I think he meant what he said.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • spr

      That is because you are a woman presumably. Women only receive their salvation through their husbands (TRUE). Only the men who attain the highest levels can become Gods

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

      You mean you weren't told that in heaven your husband will be a polygamist god? Look it up or ask your bishop. Its real, I have been around that sack of crap for a church my whole life.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Norm Johnson

      Well I have too and although I wasn't taught we would fly to another planet, I was taught in my seminary class that somehow (either through or planet flying through the cosmos lol or another way) our planet would become located by a place called kolob and we could become gods. . . . so don't know if my seminary teacher knew what he was talking about or not.... but it sounded hoakey to me.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • NoBS

      Then why are Utah Mormons so judgmental? Did you just admit that they don't follow Jesus?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  7. M.

    They also believe that God lives on (or near) planet Kolob. All in all, they are almost as funny as scientologists.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Stephen

      I'd say the underwear thing actually makes them funnier.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • kormallain

      Living on a alien planet,(or around it), you might need special underware.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  8. David

    The picture above the article clearly demonstrates either media ignorance or media bias. Minimally, the article is sloppy journalism. This is a picture of polygamists. Yet the 'explanation' states that Mormons have not practiced polygamy for decades.

    Someday , maybe, we can trust the media. Sigh.

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

      No its a picture of what mormon heaven looks like.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  9. Michael

    The article is interesting in the fact that they leave out things that most educated people would find obscene. As an ex-mormon I can say yes the church puts the family first. Family is huge and should always come first. The church states that they have so many members, they do continue to count ex-members up to a certain age. The church babtises the dead of other religons by proxy (LDS members stand up for the dead and are babtised under the name of the dead), The Jewish Church sewed the LDS church for doing this. The LDS church was always a white church, blacks were not allowed to be members, because the church beleived that being black was a mark from God that showed you were not worthly. This changed when the church was sued years ago. The father in a family can become a saint if he fathers 13 children. The wife can not go to heaven unless he husband utters her name with his dieing breath. Now, if a personing running for president can seperate his religous beliefs from his presidential duties then there is no problem. However, in my 49 years I have never seen this happen.

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

      I am not an active member of the church, but my family is still very active. I have never heard of a man being a saint after fathering 13 children and you are totally wrong about a woman cannot go to heaven. I do not know what branch you belonged to but you need to get your facts straight.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Roger

      Michael,

      Either you are a liar and were not a member of the church, or you are ignorant, or you are just plain uneducated. Which is it? 13 children in order to go to heaven? Blacks were not allowed to be members? Wrong.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Michael

      Oh and I forgot when on a mission, you are not allowed to take a bath or go swimming...well to be in any body of water, showers are fine. Submerging oneself into a body allows the devil to access your body easier.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Ralph Smith

      You've got some of your facts straight but the "The father in a family can become a saint if he fathers 13 children. The wife can not go to heaven unless he husband utters her name with his dieing breath." is total idiocy and is not a belief of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you're going to list beliefs, make sure you've got them right,

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

      Dude, there's nothing within Mormon doctrine about a man becoming a saint if he fathers thirteen children. There's nothing in Mormon doctrine about a woman getting into the Celestial Kingdom only if her husband utters her name in his dying breath. If people want their names removed from the rolls, fine, put something in writing and it's done. I'm not trying to argue with you, I'm just telling you how it is.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • neil

      As a believing Mormon and university professor I happen to KNOW that most of Michael's post is utter nonsense. If voters are as ignorant and uninformed as Michael in choosing their president we are in trouble indeed.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • travis

      You Sir, are a lire.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • 140

      Sorry bro, but you're a liar. When you leave the church you cant leave it alone right?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Rachel

      It's true that the family does come first. I don't know about the Jews suing the LDS church, but I do know that the LDS church didn't change their policy about Blacks holding the priesthood (they have ALWAYS been allowed to be members) because of being sued.

      Also, that business about a Father being sainted after having 13 children and a wife not being able to go to heaven without her name being uttered by a dying husband is COMPLETE BUNK.

      Members of the LDS faith do believe that some necessary ordinances (baptism, a temple endowment, a temple marriage (or sealing)) are required to achieve the highest level of "heaven." (This is the reasoning behind the posthumous proxy baptism. In order to give people who didn't have the chance to be baptized in this life the chance to accept it on the other side. Even there, it's not forced on them.) Church members are also expected to live good lives, in addition to participating in these "saving" ordinances. And, just as with any other religion (or non-religion) many do and, unfortunately, some don't,

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Erica

      Wow, Michael. Did you nod off in Sunday School class (and English class)? Maybe you should try Gospel Doctrine class again this Sunday. Things may not be as you seem to remember.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Austonian

      Michael, I've read articles on CNN for years now and I have never commented on an article, let alone responded to someone else's comments; however, I gotta respond to what you wrote...
      I'm 27 years old and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I don't want to engage in any type of argument so save your breath, I do, however, want to clear up what you said... I'll address everything:
      – Yes, we do perform Baptisms for the Dead, but so did the Saints in Jesus' time. Paul proposes a sequence of VERY rhetorical questions in 1 Cor. 15:29
      – The church was never a "white" church. In fact, there was NEVER a restriction for becoming a member based on race. The only restriction, which was lifted decades ago, was based on receiving the Priesthood, not membership.
      – Sainthood = Fathering 13 children is something you MADE UP, but this article is meant for people to learn FACTS about the Mormon church, so please don't toy around with such a serious topic
      – Uttering name on death bed? (see previous response)
      We're not out to force anything on anyone, I can say (as a practicing member of the church) that we just want a safe place for our children to grow up in and we want to follow Christ 100%. And I love all the comments about Joseph Smith, be honest with yourself... if you lived in the time of Moses and started hearing about all the things he was doing, they would sound just as odd at first. Judge a "prophet" by their fruits. Go read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and get the answer for yourself.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Andrew

      I'm sorry, but as a practicing member of the church, I have to correct this.

      1. "The father in a family can become a saint if he fathers 13 children."
      This is utterly false. The official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every member of the church is referred to a saint; young or old, whatever race, cultures, whatever. All the members of the church are referred to as saints, but it is a different definition from that used today by the Roman Catholic Church or any of its brake-offs. The definition is simply the one that Paul used in his letters when referring to the members of Christ Church: A Christian

      2."The wife can not go to heaven unless he husband utters her name with his dieing breath."
      -Um... No. Notta. I have no idea where this one came from. ALL who keep the commandments and follow Christ will return to live with him. Ironically, the LDS faith is one of the least exclusive Christian faiths when it comes to who will be saved and who will not. So many people paint us as being the most exclusive as to who allowed into heaven. Let me set this straight. ALL who come unto Christ and be perfected in Him will be saved in the Kingdom of God. Now there are many main-stream Christian faiths that tend to believe that coming unto Christ MUST happen in this life. What kind of loving and fair God would condemn the native boy or girl who is raised in the Jungles of the Amazon; or the Muslim in India, or the Jew in Israel, or the Buddhist in China where Christianity is unlawful to be taught and preached to hell? What about the baby or young child that dies before an opportunity to receive baptism? What happens to them in the eternities?

      Mormons have the answer because God has not forgotten his people. He is God that never changes – He talks to his children. Modern day prophets have clarified what is meant by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 when he talks of baptism for the dead. All will have an opportunity to accept Christ, whether in this life or after this life. Of course I don't have space to give an exhaustive review of proxy work for those that have passed on before us, but contact those missionaries you keep seeing come to your door, and ask them.

      Let me reiterate. Mormon believe that ALL are given the opportunity to come unto Christ, even if not in this life. That doesn't sound like exclusive to me? Most people have misunderstandings about what it is that we believe because they spend too much time reading these comments from people who don't know very much.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  10. Jennifer Grigg

    1. Photo of wrong church.
    2. Actual name of the church includes "The"
    3. Spell check does not get grammar and word choice errors.
    4. Fire the interns and hire someone over 30.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • edvhou812

      Interns? I always thought that these articles were part of a writing assignment given to the kids that take Basic English in High School.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  11. edvhou812

    There is a great episode of South Park that talks about Mormonism. lol

    June 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Wyatt

    The picture you show are FLDS or followers of Warren Jeffs. They are NOT mormons or LDS!! Bad start for this article.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Franklin

    Lots of Mormons in our neighborhood. Decent lot. Wish we had more like them around here. Their dogs don't take dumps on my lawn and their kids don't vandalize my property.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Joe

    Sorry, I just can't get past the idea of the golden tablets and the guy translating them by sticking his face in a hat with magic stones.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • GetReal

      Joe you are a rare soul! People actually believe it because there is some other schmuck that believes it so it must be true.

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

    It's funny how the article doesn't mention that Joseph Smith "translated" the golden plates into the Book of Mormon by staring at some "seeing stones" in a hat. Not that this is any less delusional that the sacred texts of any other religions. Hopefully mankind will shake of the delusions of religion some time soon – and before we all hate/kill each other for our religious diversity.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  16. Spell it out

    This is a very milk toast story. Please layout the rest of the details that they do not want the public to know. Like after they die they become a god and fly off to their own planet....

    June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • NoBS

      As the Mormons say, "give them the milk before the meat."

      June 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. Relax

    Wow, CNN. The pic at the top with the prairie dresses is NOT a Mormon thing. You've found some photo of a polygamist colony in Utah. We dress like normal people.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. Jo Smith

    If the book of Mormon was translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English and consists of writings produced by ancient American civilizations how come it was written in OLD ENGLISH just like the the bible? Does that make any sense at all if the text was authentic? Old English was not used in Egypt or ancient American civilizations.

    Or maybe there is a reason more than half the book or morons is a direct lift from the bible and the rest is historically inaccurate. Joe Smith made it up....makes a lot of sense.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Simon

      It makes no more sense than a book originally written in Aramaic and Ancient Greek being translated into Latin and then Ancient English.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Joe

      Good valid points but applying logic to this story hasn't made the slightest difference in all these years.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  19. CarrotCakeMan

    More reading: "Under The Banner of Heaven" by Joseph Krakauer...

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

      Excellent book. Freaky religion.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  20. Luther Butler

    My dad homesteaded in La Plata County, Colorado in 1921. At the age of four, he locked up the horses of some Mormons who were stealing our fence material. My dad, mother, little sister, my older brother, and me were taken to the Mormon temple in Kline, Colorado where my dad was convicted of horse stealing. Forgot to tell you before the arrest the good Mormons shot into our house where children were living. My dad would have been hanged if it hadn't been one of the Mormons had enough sense to take us to the county seat in Durango and have us locked in jail. Hadn't been my older brother escaped and got a lawyer no telling what would have happened to us. I've known and respected some good Mormons. Now when their missionaries come to my house, I invite them in, give them water and pray with them. I'll stand by my statement that they think we are gentiles if we don't belong to their group.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Luther Butler

      Hundreds of women and children in 19th Century clothing flee from Mormon 'polygamy' ranch of dark secrets

      Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-557992/Hundreds-women-children-19th-Century-clothing-flee-Mormon-polygamy-ranch-dark-secrets.html#ixzz1QE85Tl00

      June 24, 2011 at 4:25 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.