Mormonism is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity started by Joseph Smith in Western New York in the 1820s and 30s. After Smith was killed in 1844, most Mormons followed Brigham Young on his westward journey to the area that became the Utah Territory, calling themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Other sects include Mormon fundamentalism, which seeks to maintain practices and doctrines such as polygamy, and other small independent denominations. The second-largest Latter Day Saint denomination, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since 2001 called the Community of Christ, does not describe itself as "Mormon", but follows a Trinitarian Christian restorationist theology, and considers itself Restorationist in terms of Latter Day Saint doctrine.
The word Mormon originally derived from the Book of Mormon, a religious text published by Smith, which he said he translated from golden plates with divine assistance. The book describes itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas and their dealings with God. Based on the book's name, Smith's early followers were more widely known as Mormons, and their faith Mormonism. The term was initially considered pejorative, but Mormons no longer consider it so (although generally preferring other terms such as Latter-day Saint or LDS).
Mormonism has common beliefs with the rest of the Latter Day Saint movement, including the use of and belief in the Bible, and in other religious texts including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. It also accepts the Pearl of Great Price as part of its scriptural canon, and has a history of teaching eternal marriage, eternal progression and polygamy (plural marriage), although the LDS Church formally abandoned the practice of plural marriage in 1890. Cultural Mormonism, a lifestyle promoted by Mormon institutions, includes cultural Mormons who identify with the culture, but not necessarily the theology.
Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. After praying about which denomination he should join, Joseph Smith, Jr. said he received a vision in the spring of 1820. Called the "First Vision", Smith said God the Father instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported several angelic visitations, and was eventually told that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church, and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church. Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers, began baptizing new converts in 1829. Formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.
Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon was translated from writing on golden plates in a reformed Egyptian language, translated with the assistance of the Urim and Thummim and seer stones. Both the special spectacles and the seer stone were at times referred to as the "Urim and Thummim". He said an angel first showed him the location of the plates in 1823, buried in a nearby hill, but he was not allowed to take the plates until 1827. Smith began dictating the text of The Book of Mormon around the fall of 1827 until the summer of 1828 when 116 pages were lost. Translation began again in April 1829 and finished in June 1829, saying that he translated it "by the gift and power of God". Oliver Cowdery acted as scribe for the majority of the translation. After the translation was completed, Smith said the plates were returned to the angel. During Smith's supposed possession, very few people were allowed to "witness" the plates.
The book described itself as a chronicle of an early Israelite diaspora, integrating with the pre-existing indigenous peoples of the Americas, written by a people called the Nephites. According to The Book of Mormon, Lehi's family left Jerusalem at the urging of God c. 600 BC, and later sailed to the Americas c. 589 BC. The Nephites are described as descendants of Nephi, the fourth son of the prophet Lehi. The Nephites are portrayed as having a belief in Christ hundreds of years before his birth. Historical accuracy and veracity of the Book of Mormon was and continues to be hotly contested. No archaeological, linguistic, or other evidence of the use of Egyptian writing in ancient America has been discovered.
To avoid confrontation with New York residents, the members moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and hoped to establish a permanent New Jerusalem or City of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. However, they were expelled from Jackson County in 1833 and fled to other parts of Missouri in 1838. Violence between the Missourians and church members resulted in the governor of Missouri issuing an "extermination order," again forcing the church to relocate. The displaced Mormons fled to Illinois, to a small town called Commerce. The church bought the town, renamed it Nauvoo, and lived with a degree of peace and prosperity for a few years. However, tensions between Mormons and non-Mormons again escalated, and in 1844 Smith was killed by a mob, precipitating a succession crisis.
The largest group of Mormons (LDS Church) accepted Brigham Young as the new prophet/leader and emigrated to what became the Utah Territory. There, the church began the open practice of plural marriage, a form of polygyny which Smith had instituted in Nauvoo. Plural marriage became the faith's most sensational characteristic during the 19th century, but vigorous opposition by the United States Congress threatened the church's existence as a legal institution. Further, polygamy was also a major cause for the opposition to Mormonism in the states of Idaho and Arizona. In the 1890 Manifesto, church president Wilford Woodruff announced the official end of plural marriage.
Because of the formal abolition of plural marriage in 1890, several smaller groups of Mormons broke with the LDS Church forming several denominations of Mormon fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the LDS Church had become a proponent of monogamy and patriotism, has extended its reach internationally by a vigorous missionary program, and has grown in size to a reported membership of over 16 million. The church is becoming a part of the American and international mainstream. However, it consciously and intentionally retains its identity as a "peculiar people," believing their unique relationship with God helps save them from "worldliness" (non-spiritual influences).
Like most other Christian groups, Mormonism teaches that there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but unlike trinitarian faiths, the LDS Church teaches that they are separate and distinct beings with the Father and Son having perfected physical bodies and the Holy Ghost having only a body of spirit. While the three beings are physically distinct, in Mormon theology they are one in thoughts, actions, and purpose and commonly referred to collectively as the "Godhead". Also, Mormonism teaches that God the Father is the literal father of the spirits of all men and women, which existed prior to their mortal existence. The LDS Church also believes that a Heavenly Mother exists. Further, it is believed that all humans as children of God can become exalted, inheriting all that God has, as joint-heirs with Christ, and becoming like him as a God. Lorenzo Snow is quoted as saying "As man now is God once was: As God now is, man may be."
Mormonism describes itself as falling within world Christianity, but as a distinct restored dispensation; it characterizes itself as the only true form of the Christian religion since the time of a Great Apostasy that began not long after the ascension of Jesus Christ. According to Mormons this Apostasy involved the corruption of the pure, original Christian doctrine with Greek and other philosophies, and followers dividing into different ideological groups. Additionally, Mormons claim the martyrdom of the Apostles led to the loss of Priesthood authority to administer the Church and its ordinances.
Mormons believe that God re-established the early Christian Church as found in the New Testament through Joseph Smith. In particular, Mormons believe that angels such as Peter, James, John, and John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and others and bestowed various Priesthood authorities on them. Mormons thus believe that their Church is the "only true and living church" because divine authority was restored to it through Smith. In addition, Mormons believe that Smith and his legitimate successors are modern prophets who receive revelation from God to guide the church. They maintain that other religions have a portion of the truth and are guided by the light of Christ.
Smith's cosmology is laid out mostly in Smith's later revelations and sermons, but particularly the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and the King Follett discourse. Mormon cosmology presents a unique view of God and the universe, and places a high importance on human agency. In Mormonism, life on earth is just a short part of an eternal existence. Mormons believe that in the beginning, all people existed as spirits or "intelligences," in the presence of God. In this state, God proposed a plan of salvation whereby they could progress and "have a privilege to advance like himself." The spirits were free to accept or reject this plan, and a "third" of them, led by Satan rejected it. The rest accepted the plan, coming to earth and receiving bodies with an understanding that they would experience sin and suffering.
In Mormonism, the central part of God's plan is the atonement of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that one purpose of earthly life is to learn to choose good over evil. In this process, people inevitably make mistakes, becoming unworthy to return to the presence of God. Mormons believe that Jesus paid for the sins of the world and that all people can be saved through his atonement. Mormons accept Christ's atonement through faith, repentance, formal covenants or ordinances such as baptism, and consistently trying to live a Christ-like life.
According to Mormon scripture, the Earth's creation was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The Earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and there are many governing heavenly bodies, including the planet or star Kolob, which is said to be nearest the throne of God.
In Mormonism, an ordinance is a religious ritual of special significance, often involving the formation of a covenant with God. Ordinances are performed by the authority of the priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. The term has a meaning roughly similar to that of the term "sacrament" in other Christian denominations.
Saving ordinances (or ordinances viewed as necessary for salvation) include: baptism by immersion after the age of accountability (normally age 8); confirmation and reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost, performed by laying hands on the head of a newly baptized member; ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods for males; an endowment (including washing and anointing) received in temples; and marriage (or sealing) to a spouse.
Mormons also perform other ordinances, which include the Lord's supper (commonly called the sacrament), naming and blessing children, giving priesthood blessings and patriarchal blessings, anointing and blessing the sick, participating in prayer circles, and setting apart individuals who are called to church positions.
In Mormonism, the saving ordinances are seen as necessary for salvation, but they are not sufficient in and of themselves. For example, baptism is required for exaltation, but simply having been baptized does not guarantee any eternal reward. The baptized person is expected to be obedient to God's commandments, to repent of any sinful conduct subsequent to baptism, and to receive the other saving ordinances.
Because Mormons believe that everyone must receive certain ordinances to be saved, Mormons perform ordinances on behalf of deceased persons. These ordinances are performed vicariously or by "proxy" on behalf of the dead. In accordance with their belief in each individual's "free agency", living or dead, Mormons believe that the deceased may accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world, just as all spirits decided to accept or reject God's plan originally. In addition, these "conditional" ordinances on behalf of the dead are performed only when a deceased person's genealogical information has been submitted to a temple and correctly processed there before the ordinance ritual is performed. Only ordinances for salvation are performed on behalf of deceased persons. See also: Baptism for the dead.
Mormons believe in the Old and New Testaments, and the LDS Church uses the King James Bible as its official scriptural text of the Bible. While Mormons believe in the general accuracy of the modern day text of the Bible, they also believe that it is incomplete and that errors have been introduced. In Mormon theology, many lost truths are restored in the Book of Mormon, which Mormons hold to be divine scripture and equal in authority to the Bible.
The Mormon scriptural canon also includes a collection of revelations and writings contained in the Doctrine and Covenants which contains doctrine and prophecy and the Pearl of Great Price which addresses briefly Genesis to Exodus. These books, as well as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, have varying degrees of acceptance as divine scripture among different denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement.
In Mormonism, continuous revelation is the principle that God or his divine agents still continue to communicate to mankind. This communication can be manifest in many ways: influences of the Holy Ghost (the principal form in which this principle is manifest), visions, visitations of divine beings, and others. Joseph Smith used the example of the Lord's revelations to Moses in Deuteronomy to explain the importance of continuous revelation.
"God said, 'Thou shalt not murder' at another time He said, 'Thou shalt utterly destroy.' This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted–by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God commands is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire."
Mormons believe that Smith and subsequent church leaders could speak scripture "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost." In addition, many Mormons believe that ancient prophets in other regions of the world received revelations that resulted in additional scriptures that have been lost and may, one day, be forthcoming. In Mormonism, revelation is not limited to church members. For instance, Latter Day Saints believe that the United States Constitution is a divinely inspired document.
Mormons are encouraged to develop a personal relationship with the Holy Ghost and receive personal revelation for their own direction and that of their family. The Latter Day Saint concept of revelation includes the belief that revelation from God is available to all those who earnestly seek it with the intent of doing good. It also teaches that everyone is entitled to personal revelation with respect to his or her stewardship (leadership responsibility). Thus, parents may receive inspiration from God in raising their families, individuals can receive divine inspiration to help them meet personal challenges, church officers may receive revelation for those whom they serve.
The important consequence of this is that each person may receive confirmation that particular doctrines taught by a prophet are true, as well as gain divine insight in using those truths for their own benefit and eternal progress. In the church, personal revelation is expected and encouraged, and many converts believe that personal revelation from God was instrumental in their conversion.
Mormonism categorizes itself within Christianity, and nearly all Mormons self-identify as Christian. For some who define Christianity within the doctrines of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism, Mormonism's differences place it outside the umbrella of Christianity.
Since its beginnings, the faith has proclaimed itself to be Christ's Church restored with its original authority, structure and power; maintaining that existing denominations believed in incorrect doctrines and were not acknowledged by God as his church and kingdom. Though the religion quickly gained a large following of Christian seekers, in the 1830s, many American Christians came to view the church's early doctrines and practices as politically and culturally subversive, as well as doctrinally heretical, abominable, and condemnable. This discord led to a series of sometimes-deadly conflicts between Mormons and others who saw themselves as orthodox Christians. Although such violence declined during the twentieth century, the religion's unique doctrinal views and practices still generate criticism, sometimes vehemently so. This gives rise to efforts by Mormons and opposing types of Christians to proselytize each other.
Mormons believe in Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God and Messiah, his crucifixion as a conclusion of a sin offering, and subsequent resurrection. However, Latter-day Saints (LDS) reject the ecumenical creeds and the definition of the Trinity (in contrast, the second largest Latter Day Saint denomination, the Community of Christ, is Trinitarian and monotheistic.) Mormons hold the view that the New Testament prophesied both the apostasy from the teachings of Christ and his apostles as well as the restoration of all things prior to the second coming of Christ.
Some notable differences with mainstream Christianity include: A belief that Jesus began his atonement in the garden of Gethsemane and continued it to his crucifixion, rather than the orthodox belief that the crucifixion alone was the physical atonement; and an afterlife with three degrees of glory, with hell (often called spirit prison) being a temporary repository for the wicked between death and the resurrection. Additionally, Mormons do not believe in creation ex nihilo, believing that matter is eternal, and creation involved God organizing existing matter.
Much of the Mormon belief system is geographically oriented around the North and South American continents. Mormons believe that the people of the Book of Mormon lived in the western hemisphere, that Christ appeared in the western hemisphere after his death and resurrection, that the true faith was restored in Upstate New York by Joseph Smith, that the Garden of Eden was located in North America, and that the New Jerusalem would be built in Missouri. For this and other reasons, including a belief by many Mormons in American exceptionalism, Molly Worthen speculates that this may be why Leo Tolstoy described Mormonism as the "quintessential 'American religion'".
Although Mormons do not claim to be part of Judaism, Mormon theology claims to situate Mormonism within the context of Judaism to an extent that goes beyond what most other Christian denominations claim. The faith incorporates many Old Testament ideas into its theology, and the beliefs of Mormons sometimes parallel those of Judaism and certain elements of Jewish culture. In the earliest days of Mormonism, Joseph Smith taught that the Indigenous peoples of the Americas were members of some of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Later, he taught that Mormons were Israelites, and that they may learn of their tribal affiliation within the twelve Israelite tribes. Members of the LDS Church receive Patriarchal blessings which declare the recipient's lineage within one of the tribes of Israel. The lineage is either through true blood-line or adoption. The LDS Church teaches that if one is not a direct descendant of one of the twelve tribes, upon baptism he or she is adopted into one of the tribes. Patriarchal blessings also include personal information which is revealed through a patriarch by the power of the priesthood.
The Mormon affinity for Judaism is expressed by the many references to Judaism in the Mormon liturgy. For example, Smith named the largest Mormon settlement he founded Nauvoo, which means "to be beautiful" in Hebrew. Brigham Young named a tributary of the Great Salt Lake the "Jordan River". The LDS Church created a writing scheme called the Deseret Alphabet, which was based, in part, on Hebrew. The LDS Church has a Jerusalem Center in Israel, where students focus their study on Near Eastern history, culture, language, and the Bible.
There has been some controversy involving Jewish groups who see the actions of some elements of Mormonism as offensive. In the 1990s, Jewish groups vocally opposed the LDS practice of baptism for the dead on behalf of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and Jews in general. According to LDS Church general authority Monte J. Brough, "Mormons who baptized 380,000 Holocaust victims posthumously were motivated by love and compassion and did not understand their gesture might offend Jews ... they did not realize that what they intended as a 'Christian act of service' was 'misguided and insensitive'". Mormons believe that when the dead are baptized through proxy, they have the option of accepting or rejecting the ordinance.
Since its origins in the 19th century, Mormonism has been compared to Islam, often by detractors of one religion or the other. For instance, Joseph Smith was referred to as "the modern mahomet" [sic] by the New York Herald, shortly after his murder in June 1844. This epithet repeated a comparison that had been made from Smith's earliest career, one that was not intended at the time to be complimentary. Comparison of the Mormon and Muslim prophets still occurs today, sometimes for derogatory or polemical reasons but also for more scholarly (and neutral) purposes. While Mormonism and Islam have many similarities, there are also significant, fundamental differences between the two religions. Mormon–Muslim relations have been historically cordial; recent years have seen increasing dialogue between adherents of the two faiths, and cooperation in charitable endeavors, especially in the Middle and Far East.
Islam and Mormonism both originate in the Abrahamic traditions. Each religion sees its founder (Muhammad for Islam, and Joseph Smith for Mormonism) as being a true prophet of God, called to re-establish the truths of these ancient theological belief systems that have been altered, corrupted, or lost. In addition, both prophets received visits from an angel, leading to additional books of scripture. Both religions share a high emphasis on family life, charitable giving, chastity, abstention from alcohol, and a special reverence for, though not worship of, their founding prophet. Before the 1890 Manifesto against plural marriage, Mormonism and Islam also shared in the belief in and practice of plural marriage, a practice now held in common by Islam and various branches of Mormon fundamentalism.
The religions differ significantly in their views on God. Islam insists upon the complete oneness and uniqueness of God (Allah), while Mormonism asserts that the Godhead is made up of three distinct "personages." Mormonism sees Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and the literal Son of God, while Islam insists that the title "Messiah" means that Jesus (or "Isa") was a prophet sent to establish the true faith, not that he was the Son of God or a divine being. Despite opposition from other Christian denominations, Mormonism identifies itself as a Christian religion, the "restoration" of primitive Christianity. Islam does not refer to itself as "Christian", asserting that Jesus and all true followers of Christ's teachings were (and are) Muslims–a term that means submitters to God. Islam proclaims that its prophet Muhammad was the "seal of the prophets", and that no further prophets would come after him. Mormons, though honoring Joseph Smith as the first prophet in modern times, see him as just one in a long line of prophets, with Jesus Christ being the premier figure of the religion.
Mormon theology includes three main movements. By far the largest of these is "mainstream Mormonism", defined by the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The two broad movements outside mainstream Mormonism are Mormon fundamentalism, and liberal reformist Mormonism.
Mainstream Mormonism is defined by the leadership of the LDS Church which identifies itself as Christian. Members of the LDS Church consider their top leaders to be prophets and apostles, and are encouraged to accept their positions on matters of theology, while seeking confirmation of them through personal study of the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Personal prayer is encouraged as well. The LDS Church is by far the largest branch of Mormonism. It has continuously existed since the succession crisis of 1844 that split the Latter Day Saint movement after the death of founder Joseph Smith, Jr.
The LDS Church seeks to distance itself from other branches of Mormonism, particularly those that practice polygamy. The church maintains a degree of orthodoxy by excommunicating or disciplining its members who take positions or engage in practices viewed as apostasy. For example, the LDS Church excommunicates members who practice polygamy or who adopt the beliefs and practices of Mormon fundamentalism.
One way Mormon fundamentalism distinguishes itself from mainstream Mormonism is through the practice of plural marriage. Fundamentalists initially broke from the LDS Church after that doctrine was discontinued around the beginning of the 20th century. Mormon fundamentalism teaches that plural marriage is a requirement for exaltation (the highest degree of salvation), which will allow them to live as gods and goddesses in the afterlife. Mainstream Mormons, by contrast, believe that a single Celestial marriage is necessary for exaltation.
In distinction with the LDS Church, Mormon fundamentalists also often believe in a number of other doctrines taught and practiced by Brigham Young in the 19th century, which the LDS Church has either abandoned, repudiated, or put in abeyance. These include:
Mormon fundamentalists believe that these principles were wrongly abandoned or changed by the LDS Church, in large part due to the desire of its leadership and members to assimilate into mainstream American society and avoid the persecutions and conflict that had characterized the church throughout its early years. Others believe that it was a necessity at some point for "a restoration of all things" to be a truly restored Church.
Some LDS Church members have worked towards a more liberal reform of the church. Others have left the LDS Church and still consider themselves to be cultural Mormons. Others have formed new religions (many of them now defunct). For instance the Godbeites broke away from the LDS Church in the late 19th century, on the basis of both political and religious liberalism, and in 1985 the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ broke away from the LDS Church as an LGBT-friendly denomination, which was formally dissolved in 2010.
Mormons are nearly unanimous in describing Mormonism as a Christian religion, with 97% expressing this point of view.
Anti-Mormonism is discrimination, persecution, hostility or prejudice directed against the Latter Day Saint movement, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The term is often used to describe persons or literature that are critical of their adherents, institutions, or beliefs, or physical attacks against specific Saints or the Latter Day Saint movement as a whole.
Opposition to Mormonism began before the first Latter Day Saint church was established in 1830 and continues to the present day. The most vocal and strident opposition occurred during the 19th century, particularly during the Utah War of the 1850s, and in the second half of the century when the practice of polygamy in Utah Territory was widely considered by the U.S. Republican Party as one of the "twin relics of barbarism" along with slavery.Modern-day opposition generally takes the form of websites offering alternative views about Mormonism or non-violent protest at large Latter-day Saint gatherings such as the church's semiannual General Conference, outside of Latter-day Saint pageants, or at events surrounding the construction of new LDS temples. Opponents generally believe that the church's claims to divine origin are false, that it is non-Christian, or that it is a religion based on fraud or deceit on the part of its past and present leaders.Bishop (Latter Day Saints)
Bishop is the highest priesthood office of the Aaronic priesthood in the Latter Day Saint movement. It is almost always held by one who already holds the Melchizedek priesthood office of high priest. The Latter Day Saint concept of the office differs significantly from the role of bishops in other Christian denominations, being in some respects more analogous to a pastor or parish priest. Each bishop serves with two counselors, which together form a bishopric.
The role of a bishop varies in the different Latter Day Saint denominations; however, they derive from a common history.Black people and Mormonism
Over the past two centuries, the relationship between black people and Mormonism has been tumultuous. While at least two black men held the priesthood in the early church, from the mid-1800s until 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) had a policy which prevented most men of black African descent from being ordained to the church's lay priesthood and barred black men and women from access to its holy temples. Under the temple and priesthood restrictions before 1978, most black members of African descent could not be ordained to offices in the Priesthood nor participate in temple ordinances besides baptisms for the dead. For a time in the 1960s and 1970s, they were not allowed to perform baptisms for the dead either. For men and boys at age 12 in the LDS church, priesthood ordination is required to hold leadership roles, perform baptisms, bless the sacrament, and give other blessings. Since black men of African descent could not hold the priesthood, they were excluded from holding leadership roles and performing these rituals. Temple ordinances are necessary for members to receive the endowment and marriage sealings necessary for exaltation, and most black members could not enjoy these privileges during their lifetimes. Church leaders taught that these restrictions were commanded by God. In 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, led by church president Spencer W. Kimball, declared they had received a revelation that the time had come to end these restrictions. After this revelation, people of African descent could hold priesthood offices and could be granted temple admittance.
As early as 1908, a church publication stated that blacks could not receive the priesthood because their spirits were less valiant in the pre-existence. Church leaders used this explanation until 1978, when Kimball publicly refuted it; later church leaders have called the explanation a folk belief. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young reasoned that black skin was a result of the Curse of Cain or the Curse of Ham. They used these Biblical curses to justify slavery. Young believed the curse made black people ineligible to vote, marry white people, or hold the priesthood. Successive church presidents continued to use the Biblical curses to justify excluding black men from priesthood ordination and excluding black men and women from the Church's temples. The racist theories that black skin was a curse or mark of inferiority were not officially contradicted until 2013.Young was instrumental in officially legalizing slavery in Utah Territory, teaching that the doctrine of slavery was connected to the priesthood ban. Slavery in Utah ended in 1862 when Congress abolished it. Blacks gained the right to vote in 1867. Young and other church leaders were against interracial marriage. Utah's anti-miscegenation law was repealed in 1963. There has never been a written church policy against interracial marriage. Church publications from 2003 still recommended that young people marry those with similar racial backgrounds. Black people in the LDS Church suffered exclusion and discrimination even after the 1978 revelation, and many still feel the effects of racist attitudes.
In the 1970s, three members were excommunicated for criticizing the LDS Church's racial exclusion policies. Church president Kimball refuted racism in the 1970s, and in 2017 the LDS Church denounced racism and white supremacy.
Though the LDS Church had an open membership policy for all races, they avoided opening missions in areas with large black populations and discouraged people with black ancestry from investigating the church. After the 1978 revelation, the LDS Church actively proselyted to blacks, and black membership greatly increased. Six temples are planned or built in Africa outside of South Africa. In 2008, there were about 1 million black members worldwide. Compared to other churches, the LDS Church is not growing as fast as other religions in Africa.
The priesthood of most other Mormon denominations, such as the Community of Christ, Bickertonite, and Strangite, have always been open to persons of all races.Brigham Young
Brigham Young (; June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877) was an American religious leader, politician, and settler. He was the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death in 1877. He founded Salt Lake City and he served as the first governor of the Utah Territory. Young also led the foundings of the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
Young had many nicknames, among the most popular being "American Moses" (alternatively, the "Modern Moses" or "Mormon Moses"), because, like the biblical figure, Young led his followers, the Mormon pioneers, in an exodus through a desert, to what they saw as a promised land. Young was dubbed by his followers the "Lion of the Lord" for his bold personality and was also commonly called "Brother Brigham" by Latter-day Saints. A polygamist, Young had 55 wives. He instituted a church ban against conferring the priesthood on men of black African descent, and also led the church during the Utah War against the United States.Criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has been the subject of criticism since it was founded by American religious leader Joseph Smith in 1830.
The most controversial, and in fact a key reason for Joseph Smith's murder, is the claim that plural marriage (as defenders call it) or polygamy (as attackers call it) is Biblically authorized. Under heavy pressure — Utah would not be accepted as a state if polygamy was practiced — the church formally and publicly renounced the practice in 1890. Utah's statehood soon followed. However, plural marriage remains a controversial and divisive issue, as despite the official renunciation of 1890, it still has sympathizers, defenders, and semi-secret practitioners.
More recent criticism has focused on questions of historical revisionism, homophobia, racism, sexist policies, inadequate financial disclosure, and the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is a semiofficial encyclopedia for topics relevant to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, see also "Mormon"). The text is available free online.God in Mormonism
In orthodox Mormonism, the term God generally refers to the biblical God the Father, whom Latter-day Saints sometimes call Elohim, and the term Godhead refers to a council of three distinct divine persons consisting of God the Father, Jesus (His firstborn Son, whom Latter-day Saints sometimes call Jehovah), and the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit). Latter-day Saints believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings, and that the Father and Jesus have perfected, glorified, physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost is a spirit without a physical body. Latter-day Saints also believe that there are other gods and goddesses outside the Godhead, such as a Heavenly Mother who is the wife of God the Father, and that faithful Latter-day Saints may attain godhood in the afterlife. Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man on another planet before being exalted to Godhood.This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity in several ways, one of which is that Mormonism has not adopted or continued the doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same substance or being. Also, Mormonism teaches that the intelligence dwelling in each human is coeternal with God. Mormons use the term omnipotent to describe God, and regard him as the creator, they understand him as having absolutely unlimited power, but do not teach that he is the ex nihilo creator of all things. The Mormon conception of God also differs substantially from the Jewish tradition of ethical monotheism in which elohim (אֱלֹהִים) is a completely different conception.
This description of God represents the Mormon orthodoxy, formalized in 1915 based on earlier teachings. Other currently existing and historical branches of Mormonism have adopted different views of god, such as the Adam–God doctrine and Trinitarianism.Islam and Mormonism
Islam and Mormonism have been compared to one another ever since the earliest origins of the latter in the nineteenth century, often by detractors of one religion or the other—or both. For instance, Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, was referred to as "the modern Mahomet" by the New York Herald, shortly after his murder in June 1844. This epithet repeated a comparison that had been made from Smith's earliest career, one that was not intended at the time to be complimentary. Comparison of the Mormon and Muslim prophets still occurs today, sometimes for derogatory or polemical reasons but also for more scholarly and neutral purposes. While Mormonism and Islam certainly have many similarities, there are also significant, fundamental differences between the two religions. Mormon–Muslim relations have historically been cordial; recent years have seen increasing dialogue between adherents of the two faiths, and cooperation in charitable endeavors, especially in the Middle and Far East.This article compares the teachings of Islam to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which is the largest Latter Day Saint church today. Other, smaller denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, such as the Community of Christ and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), hold significantly different doctrines than those taught by the LDS Church. However, important differences remain between Islamic teaching and the doctrines of these other churches, even where they differ with those of the LDS Church.Latter Day Saint movement
The Latter Day Saint movement (also called the LDS movement, LDS restorationist movement, or Smith–Rigdon movement) is the collection of independent church groups that trace their origins to a Christian primitivist movement founded by Joseph Smith in the late 1820s. Collectively, these churches have over 16 million members, although the vast majority of these—about 98%—belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The predominant theology of the churches in the movement is Mormonism, a form of Christianity usually categorized as Restorationist. A minority of Latter Day Saint adherents, such as members of the Community of Christ, believe in traditional Protestant theology, and have distanced themselves from some of the distinctive doctrines of the LDS Church. Other groups include the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which supports lineal succession of leadership from Smith's descendants, and the more controversial Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which defends the practice of polygamy.Missouri Executive Order 44
Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838, by the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. The order was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as Mormons) and a unit of the Missouri State Militia in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that the church members had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri, Governor Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description". The militia and other state authorities—General John B. Clark, among them—used the executive order to violently expel the Mormons from their lands in the state following their capitulation, which in turn led to their subsequent migration to Nauvoo, Illinois. The order was supported by most northwest Missouri citizens but was questioned or denounced by others. However, no determination of the order's legality was ever made. On June 25, 1976, Governor Kit Bond issued an executive order rescinding the Extermination Order, recognizing its legal invalidity and formally apologizing on behalf of the State of Missouri for the suffering it had caused the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Mormon fundamentalism
Mormon fundamentalism (also called fundamentalist Mormonism) is a belief in the validity of selected fundamental aspects of Mormonism as taught and practiced in the nineteenth century, particularly during the administrations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the first two presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Mormon fundamentalists seek to uphold tenets and practices no longer held by mainstream Mormons (members of the LDS Church). The principle most often associated with Mormon fundamentalism is plural marriage, a form of polygyny first taught in the Latter Day Saint movement by Joseph Smith, the founder of the movement. A second and closely associated principle is that of the United Order, a form of egalitarian communalism. Mormon fundamentalists believe that these and other principles were wrongly abandoned or changed by the LDS Church in its efforts to become reconciled with mainstream American society. Today, the LDS Church excommunicates any of its members who practice plural marriage or who otherwise closely associate themselves with Mormon fundamentalist practices.
There is no single authority accepted by all Mormon fundamentalists; viewpoints and practices of individual groups vary. Fundamentalists have formed numerous small sects, often within cohesive and isolated communities in the Western United States, Western Canada, and northern Mexico. At times, sources have claimed there are as many as 60,000 Mormon fundamentalists in the United States, with fewer than half of them living in polygamous households. However, others have suggested that there may be as few as 20,000 Mormon fundamentalists with only 8,000 to 15,000 practicing polygamy. Founders of mutually rival Mormon fundamentalist denominations include Lorin C. Woolley, John Y. Barlow, Joseph W. Musser, Leroy S. Johnson, Rulon C. Allred, Elden Kingston, and Joel LeBaron. The largest Mormon fundamentalist groups are the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) and the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).Mormon spectrums of orthodoxy and practice
Various spectrums of beliefs or practice within Mormonism accounts for categories of Mormons possessing faith or skepticism regarding various and sundry doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the mainstream LDS Church), or pertaining to issues of orthopraxy/heteropraxy, among those identifying as Mormon. Also, people partake of Mormon culture to some degree as a result of having been raised in the LDS Church or else having converted and spent a large portion of one's life as an active member of the LDS Church. Such "cultural" Mormons may or may not be actively involved with the church. In some cases may not even be, or have ever been, official members of the church.
Many cultural Mormons possess a strongly Mormon identity and abide with an appreciation for the lessons and the love they have received in the course of long church membership. Cultural Mormons do not necessarily hold anti-Mormon sentiments and often support the goals of the church. Many retain a sense of Mormon identity for life.
Both secular Mormons and progressive Mormons are sometimes referred to as on the left side of the religious spectrums; the more typical mainstream Mormons, in the center; and religious Mormons dissidents who disagree with certain changes to "original teachings" within Mormonism, on the right. Segments of the right include both fundamentalist Mormons and dissidents who participate in the Remnant movement.Mormonism and Christianity
Mormonism and Christianity have a complex theological, historical, and sociological relationship. Mormons express the doctrines of Mormonism using standard biblical terminology and have similar views about the nature of Jesus' atonement, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming as traditional Christianity. Nevertheless, most Mormons do not accept the Trinitarian views of orthodox Nicene Christianity, codified in the Nicene and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds of 325 and 381; Mormonism is the largest nontrinitarian denomination within Christianity. Though Mormons consider the Bible as scripture, they do not believe in biblical inerrancy. They have also adopted additional scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Mormons practice baptism and celebrate the Eucharist, but they also participate in religious rituals not practiced by traditional Christianity.
Focusing on differences, some Christians consider Mormonism "non-Christian"; Mormons, focusing on similarities, are sometimes offended at being so characterized. Mormons do not accept non-Mormon baptism nor do non-Mormon Christians usually accept Mormon baptism. Mormons regularly proselytize individuals actually or nominally within the Christian tradition, and some Christians, especially evangelicals, proselytize Mormons. Some view Mormonism a form of Christianity, but distinct enough from traditional Christianity so as to form a new religious tradition, much as Christianity is more than just a sect of Judaism.The Mormonism that originated with Joseph Smith in the 1820s shared strong similarities with some elements of nineteenth-century Protestant Christianity. Mormons believe that God, through Smith and his successors, restored various doctrines and practices that were lost from the original Christianity taught by Jesus. For example, Smith, as a result of his "First Vision", primarily rejected the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity and instead taught that God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct "personages". While the largest Mormon denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), acknowledges its differences with mainstream Christianity, it also focuses on its commonalities such as its focus on faith in Christ, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the miracle of the atonement, and many other doctrines.Mormonism and polygamy
Polygamy (called plural marriage by Mormons in the 19th century or the Principle by modern fundamentalist practitioners of polygamy) was practiced by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church or Mormons) for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890 by between 20 and 30 percent of Latter-day Saint families. Note that there are various denominations that are considered Mormons and they have different beliefs and practices.
The Latter-day Saints' practice of polygamy has been controversial, both within Western society and the LDS Church itself. America was both fascinated and horrified by the practice of polygamy, with the Republican platform at one time referencing "the twin relics of barbarism—polygamy and slavery." The private practice of polygamy was instituted in the 1830s by founder Joseph Smith. The public practice of plural marriage by the church was announced and defended in 1852 by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Orson Pratt, by the request of church president Brigham Young.
For over 60 years, the LDS Church and the United States were at odds over the issue: the church defended the practice as a matter of religious freedom, while the federal government aggressively sought to eradicate it, consistent with prevailing public opinion. Polygamy was probably a significant factor in the Utah War of 1857 and 1858, given the Republican attempts to paint Democratic President James Buchanan as weak in his opposition to both polygamy and slavery. In 1862, the United States Congress passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which prohibited plural marriage in the territories. In spite of the law, Mormons continued to practice polygamy, believing that it was protected by the First Amendment. In 1879, in Reynolds v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Morrill Act, stating: "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinion, they may with practices."In 1890, church president Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto that officially terminated the practice of polygamy. Although this Manifesto did not dissolve existing plural marriages, relations with the United States markedly improved after 1890, such that Utah was admitted as a U.S. state in 1896. After the Manifesto, some Mormons continued to enter into polygamous marriages, but these eventually stopped in 1904 when church president Joseph F. Smith disavowed polygamy before Congress and issued a "Second Manifesto", calling for all plural marriages in the church to cease and established excommunication as the consequence for those who disobeyed. Several small "fundamentalist" groups, seeking to continue the practice, split from the LDS Church, including the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church). Meanwhile, the LDS Church continues its policy of excommunicating members found practicing polygamy, and today actively seeks to distance itself from fundamentalist groups that continue the practice. On its web site, the church states that "the standard doctrine of the church is monogamy" and that polygamy was a temporary exception to the rule.Mormonism and violence
Mormons have both used and been subjected to significant violence throughout much of the religion's history. In the early history of the United States, violence was used as a form of control. Many people of different faiths used violence in order to harass and persecute people who adhered to different religious beliefs. Mormons were violently persecuted and pushed from Ohio to Missouri, from Missouri to Illinois and from Illinois, they were pushed west to the Utah Territory. There were incidents of massacre, home burning and pillaging, followed by the death of their prophet, Joseph Smith. Smith died from multiple gunshot wounds in a gun battle while jailed in Carthage; Smith defended himself with a small pistol smuggled to him by Cyrus Wheelock while trying to protect himself against an illegal mob. There were also notable incidents in which Mormons perpetrated violence. Under the direction of Mormon prophets and apostles, Mormons burned and looted Daviess County, attacked and killed members of the Missouri state militia, and carried out an extermination order on the Timpanogos. Other Mormon leaders lead the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Battle Creek massacre, and Circleville Massacre. Mormons have also been a major part in several wars, including the 1838 Mormon War, Walker War and Black Hawk War.
The memory of this violence has affected both the history and the doctrines of the Latter Day Saint movement.Mormonism and women
The status of women in Mormonism has been a source of public debate since before the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. Various denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement have taken different paths on the subject of women and their role in the church and in society. Views range from the full equal status and ordination of women to the priesthood, as practiced by the Community of Christ, to a patriarchal system practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), to the ultra-patriarchal plural marriage system practiced by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) and other Mormon fundamentalist groups.Mormons
Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism, the principal branch of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity, initiated by Joseph Smith in upstate New York during the 1820s. After Smith's death in 1844, the Mormons followed Brigham Young to what would become the Utah Territory. Today, most Mormons are understood to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Some Mormons are also either independent or non-practicing. The center of Mormon cultural influence is in Utah, and North America has more Mormons than any other continent, though the majority of Mormons live outside the United States.
Mormons have developed a strong sense of commonality that stems from their doctrine and history. During the 19th century, Mormon converts tended to gather to a central geographic location, and between 1852 and 1890 a minority of Mormons openly practiced plural marriage, a form of religious polygamy. Mormons dedicate large amounts of time and resources to serving in their church, and many young Mormons choose to serve a full-time proselytizing mission. Mormons have a health code which eschews alcoholic beverages, tobacco, “hot drinks”, and addictive substances. They tend to be very family-oriented and have strong connections across generations and with extended family, reflective of their belief that families can be sealed together beyond death. Mormons also have a strict law of chastity, requiring abstention from sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage and fidelity within marriage.
Mormons self-identify as Christian, although some non-Mormons consider Mormons non-Christian and some of their beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity. Mormons believe in the Bible, as well as other books of scripture, such as the Book of Mormon. They have a unique view of cosmology and believe that all people are spirit-children of God. Mormons believe that returning to God requires following the example of Jesus Christ, and accepting his atonement through ordinances such as baptism. They believe that Christ's church was restored through Joseph Smith and is guided by living prophets and apostles. Central to Mormon faith is the belief that God speaks to his children and answers their prayers.
The number of members in 1971 was 3,090,953 and as of 2018, there are 16,118,169 members worldwide.Pearl of Great Price (Mormonism)
The Pearl of Great Price is part of the canonical standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and some other Latter Day Saint denominations.
The first paragraph of the Introductory Note in the LDS edition of the Pearl of Great Price states: "The Pearl of Great Price is a selection of choice materials touching many significant aspects of the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These items were produced by Joseph Smith and were published in the Church periodicals of his day."
The name of the book is derived from the Parable of the Pearl told by Jesus in Matthew 13.Ward (LDS Church)
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), a ward is the larger of two types of local congregations, the smaller being a branch. A ward is presided over by a bishop, the equivalent of a pastor in many other Christian denominations. As with all local LDS Church leadership, the bishop is considered lay clergy and as such is not paid. Two counselors serve with the bishop to help with administrative and spiritual duties of the ward and to preside in the absence of the bishop. Together, these three men constitute the bishopric. A branch is presided over by a branch president who may or may not have one or two counselors, depending on the size of the branch. Groups of wards are organized into stakes, while groups of branches are organized into districts.
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