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). Other Mormons may be independently religious, secular and non-practicing, or belong to another denomination. 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 those of 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.
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The word "Mormons" most often refers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) because of their belief in the Book of Mormon, though members often refer to themselves as Latter-day Saints or sometimes just Saints. The term "Mormons" has been embraced by others, most notably Mormon fundamentalists, while other Latter Day Saint denominations, such as the Community of Christ, have rejected it. Both LDS Church members and members of fundamentalist groups commonly use the word "Mormon" in reference to themselves. LDS Church leaders have encouraged members to use the church's full name to emphasize its focus on Jesus Christ, and have discouraged the use of the shortened form "Church of the Latter Day Saints", as well as the acronym "LDS", and the nickname "Mormons".
The word "Mormon" is often associated with polygamy (or plural marriage), which was a distinguishing practice of many early Mormons; however, it was renounced by the LDS Church in 1890 and discontinued over the next 15 years. Today, polygamy is practiced within Mormonism only by people that have broken with the LDS Church.
In the early days of the church the word "Mormon" or "Mormonite" was used to describe the religion in by those who were less familiar with the church. The term "Mormonite" was used several times in derogatory works.
The history of the Mormons has shaped them into a people with a strong sense of unity and commonality. From the start, Mormons have tried to establish what they call "Zion", a utopian society of the righteous. Mormon history can be divided into three broad time periods: (1) the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, (2) a "pioneer era" under the leadership of Brigham Young and his successors, and (3) a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century. In the first period, Smith had tried literally to build a city called Zion, in which converts could gather. During the pioneer era, Zion became a "landscape of villages" in Utah. In modern times, Zion is still an ideal, though Mormons gather together in their individual congregations rather than a central geographic location.
Mormons trace their origins to the visions that Joseph Smith reported he had in the early 1820s while living in Upstate New York . In 1823, Smith said an angel directed him to a buried book written on golden plates containing the religious history of an ancient people. Smith published what he said was a translation of these plates in March 1830 as the Book of Mormon, named after Mormon, the ancient prophet–historian who compiled the book. On April 6, 1830, Smith founded the Church of Christ. The early church grew westward as Smith sent missionaries to proselytize. In 1831, the church moved to Kirtland, Ohio where missionaries had made a large number of converts and Smith began establishing an outpost in Jackson County, Missouri, where he planned to eventually build the city of Zion (or the New Jerusalem). In 1833, Missouri settlers, alarmed by the rapid influx of Mormons, expelled them from Jackson County into the nearby Clay County, where local residents were more welcoming. After Smith led a mission, known as Zion's Camp, to recover the land, he began building Kirtland Temple in Lake County, Ohio, where the church flourished. When the Missouri Mormons were later asked to leave Clay County in 1836, they secured land in what would become Caldwell County.
The Kirtland era ended in 1838, after the failure of a church-sponsored anti-bank caused widespread defections, and Smith regrouped with the remaining church in Far West, Missouri. During the fall of 1838, tensions escalated into the Mormon War with the old Missouri settlers. On October 27, the governor of Missouri ordered that the Mormons "must be treated as enemies" and be exterminated or driven from the state. Between November and April, some eight thousand displaced Mormons migrated east into Illinois.
In 1839, the Mormons purchased the small town of Commerce, converted swampland on the banks of the Mississippi River, and renamed the area Nauvoo, Illinois and began construction of the Nauvoo Temple. The city became the church's new headquarters and gathering place, and it grew rapidly, fueled in part by converts immigrating from Europe. Meanwhile, Smith introduced temple ceremonies meant to seal families together for eternity, as well as the doctrines of eternal progression or exaltation, and plural marriage. Smith created a service organization for women called the Relief Society, as well as an organization called the Council of Fifty, representing a future theodemocratic "Kingdom of God" on the earth. Smith also published the story of his First Vision, in which the Father and the Son appeared to him while he was about 14 years old. This vision would come to be regarded by some Mormons as the most important event in human history after the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In 1844, local prejudices and political tensions, fueled by Mormon peculiarity and internal dissent, escalated into conflicts between Mormons and "anti-Mormons". On June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Because Hyrum was Smith's logical successor, their deaths caused a succession crisis, and Brigham Young assumed leadership over the majority of Latter Day Saints. Young had been a close associate of Smith's and was senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve. Smaller groups of Latter Day Saints followed other leaders to form other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement.
For two years after Smith's death, conflicts escalated between Mormons and other Illinois residents. To prevent war, Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers (constituting most of the Latter Day Saints) to a temporary winter quarters in Nebraska and then, eventually (beginning in 1847), to what became the Utah Territory. Having failed to build Zion within the confines of American society, the Mormons began to construct a society in isolation, based on their beliefs and values. The cooperative ethic that Mormons had developed over the last decade and a half became important as settlers branched out and colonized a large desert region now known as the Mormon Corridor. Colonizing efforts were seen as religious duties, and the new villages were governed by the Mormon bishops (local lay religious leaders). The Mormons viewed land as commonwealth, devising and maintaining a co-operative system of irrigation that allowed them to build a farming community in the desert.
From 1849 to 1852, the Mormons greatly expanded their missionary efforts, establishing several missions in Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific. Converts were expected to "gather" to Zion, and during Young's presidency (1847–77) over seventy thousand Mormon converts immigrated to America. Many of the converts came from England and Scandinavia, and were quickly assimilated into the Mormon community. Many of these immigrants crossed the Great Plains in wagons drawn by oxen, while some later groups pulled their possessions in small handcarts. During the 1860s, newcomers began using the new railroad that was under construction.
In 1852, church leaders publicized the previously secret practice of plural marriage, a form of polygamy. Over the next 50 years, many Mormons (between 20 and 30 percent of Mormon families) entered into plural marriages as a religious duty, with the number of plural marriages reaching a peak around 1860, and then declining through the rest of the century. Besides the doctrinal reasons for plural marriage, the practice made some economic sense, as many of the plural wives were single women who arrived in Utah without brothers or fathers to offer them societal support.
By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of accusations involving polygamy and the theocratic rule of the Utah Territory by Brigham Young. In 1857, U.S. President James Buchanan sent an army to Utah, which Mormons interpreted as open aggression against them. Fearing a repeat of Missouri and Illinois, the Mormons prepared to defend themselves, determined to torch their own homes in the case that they were invaded. The relatively peaceful Utah War ensued from 1857 to 1858, in which the most notable instance of violence was the Mountain Meadows massacre, when leaders of a local Mormon militia ordered the killing of a civilian emigrant party that was traveling through Utah during the escalating tensions. In 1858, Young agreed to step down from his position as governor and was replaced by a non-Mormon, Alfred Cumming. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory.
At Young's death in 1877, he was followed by other LDS Church presidents, who resisted efforts by the United States Congress to outlaw Mormon polygamous marriages. In 1878, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. United States that religious duty was not a suitable defense for practicing polygamy, and many Mormon polygamists went into hiding; later, Congress began seizing church assets. In September 1890, church president Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto that officially suspended 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. Eventually, the church adopted a policy of excommunicating members found practicing polygamy, and today seeks actively to distance itself from "fundamentalist" groups that continue the practice.
During the early 20th century, Mormons began to reintegrate into the American mainstream. In 1929, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began broadcasting a weekly performance on national radio, becoming an asset for public relations. Mormons emphasized patriotism and industry, rising in socioeconomic status from the bottom among American religious denominations to middle-class. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mormons began migrating out of Utah, a trend hurried by the Great Depression, as Mormons looked for work wherever they could find it. As Mormons spread out, church leaders created programs that would help preserve the tight-knit community feel of Mormon culture. In addition to weekly worship services, Mormons began participating in numerous programs such as Boy Scouting, a Young Women organization, church-sponsored dances, ward basketball, camping trips, plays, and religious education programs for youth and college students. During the Great Depression, the church started a welfare program to meet the needs of poor members, which has since grown to include a humanitarian branch that provides relief to disaster victims.
During the later half of the 20th century, there was a retrenchment movement in Mormonism in which Mormons became more conservative, attempting to regain their status as a "peculiar people". Though the 1960s and 1970s brought changes such as Women's Liberation and the civil rights movement, Mormon leaders were alarmed by the erosion of traditional values, the sexual revolution, the widespread use of recreational drugs, moral relativism, and other forces they saw as damaging to the family. Partly to counter this, Mormons put an even greater emphasis on family life, religious education, and missionary work, becoming more conservative in the process. As a result, Mormons today are probably less integrated with mainstream society than they were in the early 1960s.
Although black people have been members of Mormon congregations since Joseph Smith's time, before 1978, black membership was small. From 1852 to 1978, the LDS Church enforced a policy that restricted men of black African descent from being ordained to the church's lay priesthood. The church was sharply criticized for its policy during the civil rights movement, but the policy remained in force until a 1978 reversal that was prompted in part by questions about mixed-race converts in Brazil. In general, Mormons greeted the change with joy and relief. Since 1978, black membership has grown, and in 1997 there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5 percent of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. Black membership has continued to grow substantially, especially in West Africa, where two temples have been built. Many black Mormons are members of the Genesis Group, an organization of black members that predates the priesthood ban, and is endorsed by the church.
The LDS Church grew rapidly after World War II and became a worldwide organization as missionaries were sent across the globe. The church doubled in size every 15 to 20 years, and by 1996, there were more Mormons outside the United States than inside. In 2012, there were an estimated 14.8 million Mormons, with roughly 57 percent living outside the United States. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million Mormons – roughly 30% of the total membership – regularly attend services. A majority of U.S. Mormons are white and non-Hispanic (84 percent). Most Mormons are distributed in North and South America, the South Pacific, and Western Europe. The global distribution of Mormons resembles a contact diffusion model, radiating out from the organization's headquarters in Utah. The church enforces general doctrinal uniformity, and congregations on all continents teach the same doctrines, and international Mormons tend to absorb a good deal of Mormon culture, possibly because of the church's top-down hierarchy and a missionary presence. However, international Mormons often bring pieces of their own heritage into the church, adapting church practices to local cultures.
Chile, Uruguay, and several areas in the South Pacific have a higher percentage of Mormons than the United States (which is at about 2 percent). South Pacific countries and dependencies that are more than 10 percent Mormon include American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, and Tonga.
Isolation in Utah had allowed Mormons to create a culture of their own. As the faith spread around the world, many of its more distinctive practices followed. Mormon converts are urged to undergo lifestyle changes, repent of sins, and adopt sometimes atypical standards of conduct. Practices common to Mormons include studying scriptures, praying daily, fasting regularly, attending Sunday worship services, participating in church programs and activities on weekdays, and refraining from work on Sundays when possible. The most important part of the church services is considered to be the Lord's Supper (commonly called sacrament), in which church members renew covenants made at baptism. Mormons also emphasize standards they believe were taught by Jesus Christ, including personal honesty, integrity, obedience to law, chastity outside marriage and fidelity within marriage.
In 2010, around 13–14 percent of Mormons lived in Utah, the center of cultural influence for Mormonism. Utah Mormons (as well as Mormons living in the Intermountain West) are on average more culturally and/or politically conservative than those living in some cosmopolitan centers elsewhere in the U.S. Utahns self-identifying as Mormon also attend church somewhat more on average than Mormons living in other states. (Nonetheless, whether they live in Utah or elsewhere in the U.S., Mormons tend to be more culturally and/or politically conservative than members of other U.S. religious groups.) Utah Mormons often place a greater emphasis on pioneer heritage than international Mormons who generally are not descendants of the Mormon pioneers.
Mormons have a strong sense of communality that stems from their doctrine and history. LDS Church members have a responsibility to dedicate their time and talents to helping the poor and building the church. The church is divided by locality into congregations called "wards", with several wards or branches to create a "stake". The vast majority of church leadership positions are lay positions, and church leaders may work 10 to 15 hours a week in unpaid church service. Observant Mormons also contribute 10 percent of their income to the church as tithing, and are often involved in humanitarian efforts. Many LDS young men, women and elderly couples choose to serve a proselytizing mission, during which they dedicate all of their time to the church, without pay.
Mormons adhere to the Word of Wisdom, a health law or code that is interpreted as prohibiting the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea, while encouraging the use of herbs, grains, fruits, and a moderate consumption of meat. The Word of Wisdom is also understood to forbid other harmful and addictive substances and practices, such as the use of illegal drugs and abuse of prescription drugs. Mormons are encouraged to keep a year's supplies that include a food supply and a financial reserve. Mormons also oppose behaviors such as viewing pornography and gambling.
The concept of a united family that lives and progresses forever is at the core of Latter-day Saint doctrine, and Mormons place a high importance on family life. Many Mormons hold weekly Family Home Evenings, in which an evening is set aside for family bonding, study, prayer and other activities they consider to be wholesome. Latter-day Saint fathers who hold the priesthood typically name and bless their children shortly after birth to formally give the child a name. Mormon parents hope and pray that their children will gain testimonies of the "gospel" so they can grow up and marry in temples.
Mormons have a strict law of chastity, requiring abstention from sexual relations outside opposite-sex marriage and strict fidelity within marriage. All sexual activity (heterosexual and homosexual) outside marriage is considered a serious sin, with marriage recognized as only between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriages are not performed or supported by the LDS Church. Church members are encouraged to marry and have children, and Latter-day Saint families tend to be larger than average. Mormons are opposed to abortion, except in some exceptional circumstances, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, or when the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy. Many practicing adult Mormons wear religious undergarments that remind them of covenants and encourage them to dress modestly. Latter-day Saints are counseled not to partake of any form of media that is obscene or pornographic in any way, including media that depicts graphic representations of sex or violence. Tattoos and body piercings are also discouraged, with the exception of a single pair of earrings for LDS women.
LGBT Mormons, or Mormons who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from homosexual relations and obey the law of chastity. While there are no official numbers, LDS Family Services estimates that there are on average four or five members per LDS ward who experience same-sex attraction. Gary Watts, former president of Family Fellowship, estimates that only 10 percent of homosexuals stay in the church. Many of these individuals have come forward through different support groups or websites discussing their homosexual attractions and concurrent church membership.
Note that the categories below are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Members of the LDS Church, also known as Latter-day Saints, constitute over 95 percent of Mormons. The beliefs and practices of LDS Mormons are generally guided by the teachings of LDS Church leaders. However, several smaller groups substantially differ from "mainstream" Mormonism in various ways.
LDS Church members who do not actively participate in worship services or church callings are often called "less-active" or "inactive" (akin to the qualifying expressions non-observant or non-practicing used in relation to members of other religious groups). The LDS Church does not release statistics on church activity, but it is likely that about 40 percent of Mormons in the United States and 30 percent worldwide regularly attend worship services. Reasons for inactivity can include lifestyle issues and problems with social integration. Activity rates tend to vary with age, and disengagement occurs most frequently between age 16 and 25. A majority of less active members return to church activity later in life. Former Latter-day Saints who seek to disassociate themselves from the religion are often referred to as ex-Mormons.
Members of sects that broke with the LDS Church over the issue of polygamy have become known as fundamentalist Mormons; these groups differ from mainstream Mormonism primarily in their belief in and practice of plural marriage. There are thought to be between 20,000 and 60,000 members of fundamentalist sects, (0.1–0.4 percent of Mormons), with roughly half of them practicing polygamy. There are a number of fundamentalist sects, the largest two being the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) and the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB). In addition to plural marriage, some of these groups also practice a form of Christian communalism known as the law of consecration or the United Order. The LDS Church seeks to distance itself from all such polygamous groups, excommunicating their members if discovered practicing or teaching it, and today a majority of Mormon fundamentalists have never been members of the LDS Church.
Liberal Mormons, also known as Progressive Mormons, take an interpretive approach to LDS teachings and scripture. They look to the scriptures for spiritual guidance, but may not necessarily believe the teachings to be literally or uniquely true. For liberal Mormons, revelation is a process through which God gradually brings fallible human beings to greater understanding. A person in this group is sometimes mistakenly regarded by others within the mainstream church as a Jack Mormon. Although this term is more commonly used to describe a different group with distinct motives to live the gospel in a non traditional manner. Liberal Mormons place doing good and loving fellow human beings above the importance of believing correctly. In a separate context, members of small progressive breakaway groups have also adopted the label.
Cultural Mormons are individuals who may not believe in certain doctrines or practices of the institutional LDS Church yet identify as members of the Mormon ethnic identity. Usually this is a result of having been raised in the LDS faith, or as having converted and spent a large portion of one's life as an active member of the LDS Church. Cultural Mormons may or may not be actively involved with the LDS church. In some cases they may not be members of the LDS Church.
Mormons have a scriptural canon consisting of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, and a collection of revelations and writings by Joseph Smith known as the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. Mormons, however, have a relatively open definition of scripture. As a general rule, anything spoken or written by a prophet, while under inspiration, is considered to be the word of God. Thus, the Bible, written by prophets and apostles, is the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. The Book of Mormon is also believed to have been written by ancient prophets, and is viewed as a companion to the Bible. By this definition, the teachings of Smith's successors are also accepted as scripture, though they are always measured against, and draw heavily from the scriptural canon.
Mormons believe in "a friendly universe", governed by a God whose aim it is to bring his children to immortality and eternal life. Mormons have a unique perspective on the nature of God, the origin of man, and the purpose of life. For instance, Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence where people were literal spirit children of God, and that God presented a plan of salvation that would allow his children to progress and become more like him. The plan involved the spirits receiving bodies on earth and going through trials in order to learn, progress, and receive a "fulness of joy". The most important part of the plan involved Jesus, the eldest of God's children, coming to earth as the literal Son of God, to conquer sin and death so that God's other children could return. According to Mormons, every person who lives on earth will be resurrected, and nearly all of them will be received into various kingdoms of glory. To be accepted into the highest kingdom, a person must fully accept Christ through faith, repentance, and through ordinances such as baptism and the laying on of hands.
According to Mormons, a deviation from the original principles of Christianity, known as the Great Apostasy, began not long after the ascension of Jesus Christ. It was marked with the corruption of Christian doctrine by Greek and other philosophies, with followers dividing into different ideological groups. Mormons claim the martyrdom of the Apostles led to a loss of Priesthood authority to administer the church and its ordinances. Mormons believe that God restored the early Christian church through Joseph Smith. In particular, Mormons believe that angels such as Peter, James, John, John the Baptist, Moses, and Elijah appeared to Smith and others and bestowed various priesthood authorities on them. Mormons believe that their church is the "only true and living church" because of the divine authority restored through Smith. Mormons self-identify as being Christian, while many Christians, particularly evangelical Protestants, disagree with this view. Mormons view other religions as having portions of the truth, doing good works, and having genuine value.
The LDS Church has a top-down hierarchical structure with a president–prophet dictating revelations for the whole church. Lay Mormons are also believed to have access to inspiration, and are encouraged to seek their own personal revelations. Mormons see Joseph Smith's First Vision as proof that the heavens are open, and that God answers prayers. They place considerable emphasis on "asking God" to find out if something is true. Most Mormons do not claim to have had heavenly visions like Smith's in response to prayers, but feel that God talks to them in their hearts and minds through the Holy Ghost. Though Mormons have some beliefs that are considered strange in a modernized world, they continue to hold onto their beliefs because they feel God has spoken to them.
|journal=(help); D. Michael Quinn (Spring 1985). "LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890–1904". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. p. 9. Retrieved November 11, 2011.; Kenneth Cannon II (January–April 1983). "After the Manifesto: Mormon Polygamy, 1890–1906" (PDF). Sunstone. p. 27. Retrieved November 11, 2011..
|journal=(help); Pond, Allison (July 24, 2009). "A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S". Pew Research Center. Cite journal requires
|journal=(help) (A 2011 survey of Mormons in the United States showed that family life is very important to Mormons, with family concerns significantly higher than career concerns. Four out of five Mormons believe that being a good parent is one of the most important goals in life, and roughly three out of four Mormons put having a successful marriage in this category); "New Pew survey reinforces Mormons' top goals of family, marriage". Deseret News. January 12, 2012.; See also: "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".
|journal=(help) (79% of Mormons in the US say that sex between unmarried adults is morally wrong, far higher than the 35% of the general public who hold the same view).
|journal=(help) (Mormons are nearly unanimous in describing Mormonism as a Christian religion, with 97% expressing this point of view); Robinson, Stephen E. (May 1998), "Are Mormons Christians?", New Era, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
|journal=(help) (About a third of Americans and half of evangelical Protestants view Mormonism as a non-Christian religion).
|journal=(help); Mormons take an inclusivist position that their religion is correct and true but that other religions have genuine value. Palmer; Keller; Choi; Toronto (1997). Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Brigham Young University..
The 1838 Mormon War, also known as the Missouri Mormon War, was a conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri from August to November 1838, the first of the three "Mormon Wars".
Members of the Latter Day Saint movement, founded by Joseph Smith, had gradually migrated from New York to northwestern Missouri since 1831, mainly settling in Jackson County, where tensions with non-Mormon residents led to episodes of anti-Mormon violence. The Mormons were evicted from Jackson County in 1833 and resettled in new counties nearby, where tensions grew again and attempts to evict them resumed. On August 6, 1838, the war began following a brawl at an election in Gallatin, resulting in increased organized violence between Mormons and non-Mormons backed by the Missouri Volunteer Militia in northwestern Missouri. The Battle of Crooked River in late October led to Lilburn Boggs, the Governor of Missouri, issuing the Missouri Executive Order 44 ordering the Mormons to leave Missouri or be killed. On November 1, 1838, Smith surrendered at Far West, the church's headquarters, ending the war. Smith was charged for treason but escaped in custody and fled to Illinois with the remainder of the estimated 10,000 Missouri Mormons, establishing the new settlement of Nauvoo.
During the conflict 22 people were killed (three Mormons and one non-Mormon at Battle of Crooked Creek, one Mormon prisoner fatally injured while in custody, and 17 Mormons at Haun’s Mill) and an unknown number of non-combatants died due to exposure and hardship as a result of being expelled from their homes in Missouri. All of the conflicts in the Mormon War occurred in a corridor 100 miles (160 km) to the east and northeast of Kansas City.All About Mormons
"All About Mormons", also known as "All About the Mormons?", is the 12th episode of the seventh season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 108th overall episode of the series. It was originally broadcast on Comedy Central in the United States on November 19, 2003. The episode revolves around the religion and culture of Mormons, as a Mormon family moves to the town of South Park, and influences the beliefs of the family of character Stan Marsh. The story of Joseph Smith's founding of Mormonism and the origin of the Book of Mormon is told through a number of comedic 19th-century flashbacks, with a musical narration.
The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA in the United States. The episode evolved from personal experiences of creators Parker and Matt Stone, who grew up in Colorado. Growing up in Colorado both Stone and Parker often visited Utah, and both had Mormon classmates. The scene in which Stan is invited to dinner by the Mormon family was inspired by Parker's first girlfriend in high school, who was Mormon and invited him over for Family Home Evening. They found the religion ridiculous but hard to parody Mormons due to their good-natured attitudes. The new Mormon student Gary is voiced by South Park writer Kyle McCulloch, who grew up Mormon.
The episode received positive reviews from television critics, and has been placed on "best-of" South Park lists. Parker found that younger audiences found the episode unfunny, but many of his Mormon friends found it hilarious. "All About Mormons" was released on DVD along with the rest of the seventh season on March 21, 2006. Parker and Stone later carried over many themes from the episode for their musical The Book of Mormon, which opened on Broadway in 2011.Anti-Mormonism
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 people 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, podcasts, videos or other media 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. In 2015, the FBI began tracking anti-Mormon hate crimes in the United States and have noted an increase in incidents over time.Black Mormons
Black people have been members of Mormon congregations since its foundation, although the church placed restrictions on proselytization efforts among black people. Before 1978, black membership was small. It has since grown, and in 1997, there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5% of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. Black membership has continued to grow substantially, especially in West Africa, where two temples have been built. By 2018, an estimated 6% of members were black. In the United States, 3% of members are black.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 critics 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.Ex-Mormon
Ex-Mormon or post-Mormon refers to a disaffiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) or any of its schismatic breakoffs, collectively called "Mormonism". Ex-Mormons—sometimes referred to as exmo or postmo—may neither believe in nor affiliate with the LDS Church. In contrast, Jack Mormons may believe but do not affiliate; and cultural Mormons may or may not affiliate but do not believe in certain doctrines or practices of the institutional LDS Church. The distinction is important to a large segment of ex-Mormons, many of whom consider their decision to leave as morally compelling and socially risky. According to 2014 Pew data, around 1/3 of adults raised LDS no longer adhere to the faith(up from around 10% in the '70s and '80s) and in 2008 only 25% of LDS young adults are actively involved. Many ex-Mormons experience troubles with family members who still follow Mormon teachings. Aggregations of ex-Mormons may comprise a social movement.Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. When he was 24, Smith published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death, 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion that continues to the present.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont. By 1817, he had moved with his family to the burned-over district of western New York; an area of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening. Smith said he experienced a series of visions, including one in 1820 during which he saw "two personages" (presumably God the Father and Jesus Christ), and another in 1823 in which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. In 1830, Smith published what he said was an English translation of these plates called the Book of Mormon. The same year he organized the Church of Christ, calling it a restoration of the early Christian church. Members of the church were later called "Latter Day Saints" or "Mormons", and Smith announced a revelation in 1838 which renamed the church as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
In 1831, Smith and his followers moved west, planning to build a communalistic American Zion. They first gathered in Kirtland, Ohio and established an outpost in Independence, Missouri which was intended to be Zion's "center place". During the 1830s, Smith sent out missionaries, published revelations, and supervised construction of the Kirtland Temple. The collapse of the church-sponsored Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company and violent skirmishes with non-Mormon Missourians caused Smith and his followers to establish a new settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois, where he became a spiritual and political leader. In 1844, Smith and the Nauvoo city council angered non-Mormons by destroying a newspaper that had criticized Smith's power and practice of polygamy. Smith was imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, where he was killed when a mob stormed the jailhouse.
Smith published many revelations and other texts that his followers regard as scripture. His teachings discuss the nature of God, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. His followers regard him as a prophet comparable to Moses and Elijah, and several religious denominations consider themselves the continuation of the church that he organized, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.Latter Day Saints in popular culture
Latter Day Saints and Mormons have been portrayed in popular media many times. These portrayals often emphasize controversy such as polygamy or myths about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and other Latter Day Saint movement religions.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 Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Militia in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that the Mormons 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 a few. 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 Mormons.Mormon colonies in Mexico
The Mormon colonies in Mexico are settlements located near the Sierra Madre mountains in northern Mexico which were established by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning in 1885. Many of the original colonists came to Mexico due to federal attempts to curb and prosecute polygamy in the United States. The towns making up the colonies were originally situated in the states of Chihuahua and Sonora, and were all within roughly 200 miles south of the US border. By the early 20th century, many of these were relatively prosperous. However, in the summer of 1912, the colonies were evacuated due to anti-American sentiment during the Mexican Revolution and many of their citizens left for the United States and never returned. Some colonists did eventually return to their settlements, but today only Colonia Juárez and Colonia Dublán in the Casas Grandes river valley remain active. The Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple, built in 1999, is located in Colonia Juárez, and is currently the smallest temple the LDS Church operates.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.Mormon studies
Mormon studies is the interdisciplinary academic study of the beliefs, practices, history and culture of those known by the term Mormon and denominations belonging to the Latter Day Saint movement whose members do not generally go by the term "Mormon". The Latter Day Saint movement includes not only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) but also the Community of Christ (CoC) and other groups, as well as those falling under the umbrella of Mormon fundamentalism.
Before 1903, writings about Mormons were mostly orthodox documentary histories or anti-Mormon material. The first dissertations on Mormons, published in the 1900s, had a naturalistic style that approached Mormon history from economic, psychological, and philosophical theories. While their position within Mormon studies is debated, Mormon apologetics have a tradition dating back to Parley P. Pratt's response to an anti-Mormon book in 1838.
The amount of scholarship in Mormon studies increased after World War II. From 1972–1982, while Leonard Arrington was a Church Historian in the history department, the LDS Church Archives were open to Mormon and non-Mormon researchers. Researchers wrote detached accounts for Mormon intellectuals in the "New Mormon history" style. Many new publications started to publish history in this style, including Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, BYU Studies Quarterly, and Exponent II. Some general authorities in the church did not like the New Mormon history style, and Arrington and his remaining staff were transferred to Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1982, where they worked in the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History. The institute continued to support scholarship in Mormon history until 2005, when the institute closed and employees transferred to the LDS Church Office Building. In the late 1980s and 1990s, several other incidents made BYU faculty reluctant to voice unorthodox ideas about church history. Around 1990, BYU professors were asked not to contribute to Dialogue or Sunstone. Two historians were excommunicated in 1993, probably for their published unorthodox views. BYU Studies and other LDS church-sponsored publishers published more "faithful" scholarship at this time. Presses outside of Utah started to publish more books in Mormon studies.
Mormon scholars engaging in Mormon studies still feel they must be careful about what they write, especially if they work with material from the Church History Library archives. Non-Mormon scholars are often suspicious of Mormon scholars' work. This is gradually changing as Mormon scholars find employment outside of church-sponsored institutions. Universities without affiliation to the LDS Church have endowed chairs for Mormon studies. Emerging trends in "Newer" Mormon History are an increase in interdisciplinary work and women's history. The LDS Church History Department hired a women's history specialist in 2011 and has recently published books focusing on women's history. Blogs focusing on Mormon history have helped make Mormon history more accessible and provided a safe space for unorthodox ideas, although they may be superficial at times.Mormonism
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.
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).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.
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 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; 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 Sacrament, 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 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 led 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.Moroni (Book of Mormon prophet)
Moroni (), according to the Book of Mormon, was the last Nephite prophet, historian, and military commander who lived in the Americas in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. He is later known as the Angel Moroni, who presented the golden plates to Joseph Smith, who translated the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was originally written.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, is a nontrinitarian, Christian restorationist church that is considered by its members to be the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States, and has established congregations and built temples worldwide. According to the church, it has over 16 million members and 65,000 full-time volunteer missionaries. In 2012, the National Council of Churches ranked the church as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States, with over 6.5 million members there as of January 2018. It is the largest denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith during the early 19th century period of religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening.
Adherents, often referred to as "Latter-day Saints" or, less formally, "Mormons", view faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement as fundamental principles of their religion. Church theology includes the Christian doctrine of salvation only through Jesus Christ, though LDS doctrines regarding the nature of God and the potential of mankind differ significantly from mainstream Christianity. The church has an open canon which includes four scriptural texts: the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Other than the Bible, the majority of the LDS canon constitutes revelation received by Joseph Smith and recorded by his scribes which includes commentary and exegesis about the Bible, texts described as lost parts of the Bible, and other works believed to be written by ancient prophets. Because of some of the doctrinal differences, Catholic, Orthodox, and several Protestant churches consider the church to be distinct and separate from mainstream Christianity.Under the doctrine of continuing revelation, Latter-day Saints believe that the church president is a modern-day "prophet, seer, and revelator" and that Jesus Christ, under the direction of God the Father, leads the church by revealing his will to its president. Individual members of the church believe that they can also receive personal revelation from God in conducting their lives. The president heads a hierarchical structure with various levels reaching down to local congregations. Bishops, drawn from the laity, lead local congregations. Male members, beginning in January of the year they reach age 12, may be ordained to the priesthood, provided they are living the standards of the church. Women are not ordained to the priesthood but do occupy leadership roles in some church auxiliary organizations.Both men and women may serve as missionaries and the church maintains a large missionary program that proselytizes and conducts humanitarian services worldwide. Faithful members adhere to church laws of sexual purity, health, fasting, and Sabbath observance, and contribute ten percent of their income to the church in tithing. The church also teaches about sacred ordinances through which adherents make covenants with God, including baptism, confirmation, the sacrament (holy communion), priesthood ordination, endowment, and celestial marriage (marriage blessings which extend beyond mortality)—all of which are of great significance to church members.The Mormons (miniseries)
The Mormons is a four-hour PBS documentary about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The production originally aired in two-hour segments on April 30 and May 1, 2007. It was produced by Helen Whitney, and was the first joint production of Frontline and American Experience.Utah War
The Utah War (1857–1858), also known as the Utah Expedition, Utah Campaign, Buchanan's Blunder, the Mormon War, or the Mormon Rebellion was an armed confrontation between Mormon settlers in the Utah Territory and the armed forces of the United States government. The confrontation lasted from May 1857 to July 1858. There were some casualties, mostly non-Mormon civilians. The war had no notable military battles.
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