Who Are the Mormons?
Basic history, beliefs, and membership figures for adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
SALVATION • MISSIONARIES • DIET • POLYGAMY • FAMILY TIES
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 11 million members throughout the world. In the U.S., there are more than 5 million Mormons. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City.
Mormons are officially referred to as Latter-day Saints. The name Latter-day stems from the belief that after the death of the early apostles, the Christian church fell into apostasy. The church needed to be restored in the latter days, which Mormons believe began in 1820.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith, who is considered a prophet by Mormons. He began receiving visions at age 14, in 1820, in which he was told it was his mission to restore the church of Jesus Christ on earth. When Joseph Smith was killed, leadership of the church passed on to Brigham Young. Young was responsible for leading Mormon pioneers west to Salt Lake City in 1847.
Latter-day Saints believe the Bible is sacred. They also include in their canon The Pearl of Great Price, which includes two lost books of the Bible, a translation of the Gospel of Matthew, and the 13 Articles of Faith; The Doctrine and Covenants, a group of 138 revelations from God and two other official documents; and The Book of Mormon, originally published in 1830.
Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus is the Son of God in the most literal sense. He is eldest brother of all mortals and firstborn spirit child of God. They believe that from Mary, a mortal woman, Jesus inherited the capacity to die, and from God, an exalted being, he inherited the capacity to live forever.
Latter-day Saints believe that salvation comes through Christ's atoning sacrifice. But they don't believe in "original sin" or in human depravity. Still, Latter-day Saints believe that fallen men and women do need redemption. Works are a necessary condition, but they are insufficient for salvation.
More than 60,000 men and women serve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as missionaries in more than 330 missions around the world. Male missionaries are referred to as "Elders" while female missionaries are referred to as "Sisters." These titles precede a missionary's last name, for example, Elder Jones and Sister Smith.
Latter-day Saints caution their members against using tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea and coffee. They interpret the misuse of drugs--illegal, legal, prescription or controlled--as a violation of the health code known as the "Word of Wisdom."
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, said the idea of "plural marriage" was revealed to him by God. Among early Mormon pioneers, 20-25% of families were polygamous. LDS president Wilford Woodruff announced an official end to the practice of polygamy in 1890. Read more about the LDS church and polygamy here.
Mormons operate the largest genealogical library in the world containing millions of volumes of birth, marriage, death, and other records. In addition, the Church obligates Latter-day Saints to stand as proxies for their deceased ancestors in sacred rites such as baptism and eternal marriage.
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- Matthew Modine, actor
- Neil LaBute, director and screenwriter
- Steve Young, football player
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