Mormonism: Delving into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
According to statistics gathered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the formal name for the Mormon Church), more than two-thirds of Utah’s inhabitants are Mormon. The current Church membership is almost 13 million people worldwide, and Mormonism is allegedly the second fastest growing U.S. religion. The Church is the most affluent church per capita in the United States. Despite all these facts and figures, the Church remains shrouded in much mystery and misrepresentation, though the presidential run of Mitt Romney has given Mormonism much more public attention. This guide will teach you about Mormon beliefs, practices, and history; introduce you to Mormon news sources and illustrate the religion’s place in current events; and help you connect with the Mormon online community.
As aforementioned, Mormon beliefs are not well known internationally or even in the United States, where it was founded and where a Mormon is running for president. This section will elucidate Mormon beliefs and practices, as well as the organization of the LDS Church.
- When Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith was killed, the Mormon movement split. But the followers of Joseph Smith were and are considered part of the LDS(Latter-day Saints) Restoration Movement, the umbrella term.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“the Church”) is by far the largest sect of the LDS Restoration Movement, and it is based in Salt Lake City.
- Members of this denomination go by many names, including Mormons and Latter-day Saints. There are a number of other branches of the LDS Restoration Movement with some, not all, calling themselves Mormon. Making matters more complicated, the Church is opposed to calling sects other than itself “Mormon.”
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the official name of this primary sect. The Mormon Church, the LDS Church, and the Church of the Latter-day Saints are less formal names, and the Church tends to avoid those titles. Here is a link to a naming style guide created by the Church.
- Mormons categorize themselves as Christians.
- Mormon.org, an official Church site, offers free copies of the Bible or the Book of Mormon (scroll down to the bottom of the page). The Church promotes the use of the King James Version of the Bible for English speakers.
- Keep in mind that certain Mormons may not agree with the content found in all of the Web sites we’ve listed here.
provides a very condensed summary of Mormon beliefs in bullet-point format. Watch out for pop-up advertisements, though.
is an official Web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Primarily for teaching the basics about the religion and finding new members, this site includes testimonials from recent converts to Mormonism. The “Basic Beliefs
” section is a good general resource for anyone who wants an introduction to the religion.
is another official Web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It provides a far more in-depth approach to all aspects of the religion than Mormon.org. Whereas Mormon.org is geared toward newcomers, this site also caters to longtime members of the Church. The site should answer most of your questions about Mormon beliefs and family values. For the easiest site navigation, use the category headings on the top of the homepage.
created this Web site based on its four-hour production on Mormonism. The site is packed with clear and concise information that both Mormons and non-Mormons will find useful. The FAQ section contains extensive answers to common questions and concerns about the Mormon faith. There are also sections for interviews and discussions. Buy the DVD
or watch the series
on the Web site.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
is an extraordinary resource on the religion, compiled by Brigham Young University, a Mormon educational institution. According to the site, it “remains the most encyclopedic coverage of Mormonism ever produced.” Written by various authors, the entries can be accessed on the site in alphabetical order. The only downside of this resource is its overwhelming size. This encyclopedia is best approached when you have a topic in mind that you would like to research further.
Mormonism is a fairly young religion. It was founded by Joseph Smith in the first half of the 19th century, which was a time of great religious fervor in the United States; the area of upstate New York where Smith’s story began was known as the “Burned-over District” because of the vigorous evangelism that occurred there. Smith, who was supposedly visited by various divine spirits, attracted a substantial group of followers. This section traces Mormon history from its founding under Joseph Smith to its journey out West. We will also trace the history of and offer some contemporary information about polygamy and fundamentalist groups below.
- This part of the guide contains a cross-section of sources. You’ll find historical information about Mormons written by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you’ll see sources from Hollywood movies and television shows. We wanted to show you how certain facets of Mormonism are perceived in different media; note that some of these sources may be biased toward a particular perspective.
- The Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of God, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (no hyphen)were names of the church at different points throughout the 1800s, but are no longer official today.
- As you will learn in this section, Mormons no longer practice polygamy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider polygamists to be Mormon. You will find, however, that these groups are sometimes referred to as “fundamentalist” Mormons by the media.
For an overview of early Mormon history …
The State of Utah
provides this entry from the Utah History Encyclopedia, a concise history of the Mormons that covers the founding of the religion and the western trek from New York to west of the Mississippi River. There are some interesting facts in this summary, including information about the “Extermination Order” issued by the Governor of Missouri in 1838, which threatened to execute the Mormons if they did not leave the state. This order was not actually revoked until 1976.
offers a history of Mormonism before 1839. This passage primarily focuses on Joseph Smith and his prophetic visions. ReligiousTolerance.org prides itself on its unbiased views on all religions. The site also has a link for the continued history of the faith
from “1839 to now.”
The Mormon History Association
is affiliated with the American Historical Association and dedicated to the study of Mormon history. Its Web site offers “A Brief History of Mormonism,” discussing the beginning and evolution of Mormonism through Joseph Smith Jr., Brigham Young, and beyond. Although the Mormon History Association
is a great resource for information on the history of Mormonism, the actual Web site doesn’t contain much additional information about the religion, other than details about the association itself.
has everything you ever wanted to know about the founder of Mormonism. This Web site, put together by the Church, is extensive and easy to use. The site is quite informative, but keep in mind that as it’s a product of the Church, its portrayal of Joseph Smith is uniformly positive.
offers this interactive and informative Web site called “The Pioneer Story.” Trace the route that the Mormon pioneers took on their westward trail and learn about each stop on their path.
opened in theaters at the end of August 2007. The movie describes one of the most regrettable and controversial events in Mormon history: the Mountain Meadows Massacre on September 11, 1857, when Mormons in the Utah territory killed approximately 120 men, women, and children. The film’s Web site has a history of the incident
, videos, downloads, and film information. The News & Reviews
section is also a valuable resource, noting the reactions to the movie. Read the Church’s account
of the event, or see Mitt Romney’s reaction
to the movie.
For facts and fiction about polygamy …
presents this extremely helpful piece entitled “Understanding Polygamy in Mormon History,” which clears up the misconceptions surrounding the Mormons’ former practice of plural marriage. Adapted from Mormonism For Dummies
, this Web page offers a history of Mormon polygamy, the Mormon arguments in favor of polygamy in the 19th century, and a section detailing the myths about Mormon polygamy. Explore the equally valuable related articles listed at the bottom of the page, such as “Contemplating the Mormon Worldview” and “What’s Not on the Mormon Menu,” about Mormon eating and drinking practices.
goes into more depth than Dummies.com about the former Mormon practice of plural marriage. The layout of the site is not too pretty, but there are plenty of facts here regarding the history of this controversial subject. The site gathers this information from the Utah History Encyclopedia.
describes the life of the infamous Warren Jeffs and his followers in this article from May 3, 2005. Jeffs is/was the leader of a fundamentalist Mormon splinter sect based on the Utah-Arizona border. The article also mentions the tenure of his father, Rulon Jeffs, the previous leader of the sect, who consolidated power and left behind “an estimated 75 widows and 65 children to mourn him.” The younger Jeffs was eventually arrested for arranging a marriage between an underage girl and her adult cousin. Here is an article from CNN.com
reporting on Warren Jeffs’s arrest in August 2006; the New York Times
has this article about Jeffs’s conviction in September 2007 (you will need a free online subscription); and ABC News
explains how Jeffs will probably still retain tremendous influence over his sect, even behind prison bars.
The Rick A. Ross Institute
is a nonprofit organization based in New Jersey, devoted to disseminating information and offering resources on “destructive cults, controversial groups and movements.” This page, dedicated to polygamist groups, has an immense amount of information and may be a bit overwhelming. There are subheadings to make the searching somewhat easier, with topics like “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS),” “History of Mormon/American polygamy,” and “Polygamy and the Law.” If you want an extensive resource on the topic, this is the place to go.
is a recent HBO show
that has brought more attention to Mormonism, even though the show does not highlight mainstream Mormonism. The show tracks the lives of Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) and his family, which includes three wives. The polygamist lifestyle, although discontinued by the Church in 1890, is still practiced by certain splinter sects who consider themselves fundamentalist Mormons, even though the Church does not label them Mormon. To get up to date on the series, read the “About the Show
Mormonism has existed for more than 175 years now, but recently it has spent significant time in the spotlight. With the Mormon Mitt Romney running for president, the American public, which has elected only one non-Protestant candidate before, is seeking more information about the religion. Use the links below to learn how Mormonism has entered the mainstream news. There are also sites in this section for Mormon news and opinion publications, so you can keep up with current events in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Keep in mind that the sources listed under “For a Mormon perspective on the news …” may not provide the most complete picture of the news. To see more sides of an issue, you should compare these sources with other non-Mormon publications.
For a Mormon perspective on the news …
The LDS.org Newsroom
is the Mormon “Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public.” You’ll find press releases and news regarding the Church, and Church statistics, such as membership and the number of missions. The “Background Information
” section provides various Church-related facts.
compiles information about the Church found in media throughout the world. This site is not affiliated with the Church, but it’s primarily meant to show Church members how Mormonism is portrayed worldwide. As the site notes, not all the information is favorable to the Church: the articles that the editor feels are most relevant to Church members and leaders are located at the top, while those that are not as applicable or show the Church in a less flattering light are located lower on the page.
is an online magazine that presents the news from a Mormon perspective, with stories updated daily. The publication has a strong religious bent, strewing its articles with quotes from the Bible. You’ll also come across features such as the “Family Value of the Month” and the “Myth of the Month.”
is a weekly podcast “exploring Mormon current events, pop culture, politics and spirituality.” Listen to the podcast straight from the site or use iTunes. The site also posts an abundance of responses to each week’s podcast.
For information about Mitt Romney …
The Mitt Romney for President
official Web site contains a transcript of the “Faith In America” speech Romney gave regarding his religion on December 6, 2007. CNN.com
offers this article summarizing the speech.
Magazine examines the role played by Mormonism in the political life of Mitt Romney. The article suggests that Romney will probably focus more on the family values that his religion espouses than on the theology of Mormonism.
The New York Times
featured this op-ed piece on April 9, 2007, analyzing the issues involved in Mitt Romney’s presidential run. This piece examines the differences between Mormonism and the Protestant Christianity that has been such a dominant force in American politics.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
has this transcript from a speech and discussion forum that occurred on May 14, 2007, in Florida, called “Mormonism and Politics: Are They Compatible?” This interesting speech and question-and-answer period traces the history of the Mormon faith and its relation to the Mitt Romney presidential bid.
For a scholarly Mormon journal …
is “A Journal of Mormon Thought.” Although edited by Mormons, this quarterly journal is independent of the Church’s executive clergy. The journal examines issues relevant to the Mormon religion and its relation to the secular world. Its purpose is to bring Mormon beliefs “into dialogue with the larger stream of world religious thought and with human experience as a whole.” A one-year subscription costs $37; it’s $30 for students and seniors. Some of the articles are available on the site for free.
There are many more ways to become a part of the Mormon community besides staying on top of the news. Once you find a place of worship or a Mormon meetinghouse, you can get involved in a more specific Latter-day Saint community. The sites below can direct you to places of worship as well as online communities for Mormon women and minority groups. There are also sites for Mormon humanitarian efforts worldwide. Make the most of this vast Mormon network.
- Blogs are also an integral part of the Mormon online community; there are so many interesting ones out there that the following section, “Mormon Blogs” is entirely devoted to them.
- Many of the “community” sites in this section are also gateways to other resources. Use these links as a starting point, and the sites should lead you to forums, discussions, blogs, articles, and more.
For finding a place of worship …
For specific Mormon communities …
The LDS Woman
is a fantastic resource for women in the Mormon community. Read about a variety of topics, like entertainment, humor, health, politics, and parenting. Share your artwork, novels, poetry, and short stories, and read what others think. Join in the forum discussion or start a conversation in the chat room.
The Genesis Group
is a resource for African-Americans who are Mormons or are considering conversion to the faith. In the past, African-Americans have had a contentious relationship with Mormonism; until 1978, they were not allowed to join the priesthood. The site contains a newsletter and various resources for reaching out to the African-American Mormon community. With regard to the historical treatment of African-American Mormons, a New York Times
article has this noteworthy line: “Racism is also an issue, since it was not until 1978 that the church opened its priesthood to blacks. But don’t forget that it was only in the 1990s that many Southern churches asked forgiveness for their segregationist stance—and received it.”
Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons
confronts the controversial and taboo topic of homosexuality in Mormonism. Historically, Mormonism has not been open to the idea of homosexuality, but the fact that homosexual Mormons exist has become inescapable. This organization, which began in the late 1970s, has become a huge network with chapters throughout the world. The Web site contains news, blogs, learning tools, and plenty of information about the organization.
For humanitarian efforts …
outlines many of the humanitarian and welfare efforts of the Church. The “Training Materials” section, particularly “Basic Welfare Lessons
,” explains the principles behind Mormon humanitarian efforts around the globe. On this site, you can either donate to the Church or learn more about becoming an active participant in Mormon humanitarianism.
The Mormon blogging community is extensive and has a lot to say. Not only are these blogs a fantastic way to stay in touch with the greater Mormon community, they also allow individuals to find their niche within that population. Do you feel like nobody else is thinking the same thing you are? Chances are, you’re wrong.
- The Bloggernacle (or Bloggernacle Choir) refers to the Mormon blogging community.
- As the Bloggernacle is quite large, the few links below may not satiate your reading desires. For a more comprehensive list of Mormon blogs, visit LDS & Mormon Blogs, a directory of blogs about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- If you enjoy reading some of the blogs below, take a look at their “blogrolls,” usually situated on the right side of the page, to find other recommended blogs.
- Some of the community sites in the previous section may also link to blogs concerning that specific group.
- The content found in these blogs may be offensive to some; keep that in mind as you go through the links.
For general Mormon blogs …
By Common Consent
provides recent posts touching upon current activities in the Latter-day Saint community. The blog has more than 70 authors, some permanent and some guests. The comments under each post often spark lively and lengthy debate.
is a well-written blog about all things involving Latter-day Saints. Some of the posts are long, others are quite short, but the posts usually come every couple of days. Many of the posts contain annotated references to the Mormon texts.
Dave’s Mormon Inquiry
calls itself “A friendly place to talk about Mormon history, doctrine, and culture.” The site is cluttered, a result of the vast number of links the author includes. The right side of the page is filled with books about Mormonism, various news sources, Mormon Web sites, and blogs.
The Culture Hall
is a unique blog written by Mormons who have questioned their faith, are questioning it, or simply don’t know what to think. The site has a number of writers, and according to the “About” section, “All of us have struggled at one point or another within the LDS faith.” But at the same time, “none of us have been able to leave Mormonism behind.”
For blogs about Mormon arts and culture …
A Motley Vision
is concerned with “Mormon Arts and Culture,” in particular “literature, criticism, publishing and marketing…film, theater, art, music, and pop and folk culture.” The site, with a clean and pleasant design, has six contributing writers.
For blogs dedicated to Mormon women …
is a blog written by Latter-day Saint women about their thoughts on religion and everyday life. You’ll find posts about Mormon doctrinal issues and posts on issues common to all women, such as an entry preparing women for their first mammogram.
Feminist Mormon Housewives
is pretty much what it sounds like. Mormonism is usually not associated with liberalism, or feminism for that matter, but this blog tackles those issues anyway. There are eight contributors to this blog, making for a lot of feminist Mormon content, and a lot of comments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an influential entity, and its strictures reach far and wide. The Church provides a great deal of reading material, both religious and secular, and some top-notch institutions for higher education. It has developed one of the foremost genealogical records in existence, as keeping track of family history is a vital part of the religion. This section provides information about Mormon education and books, genealogy, and culture.
- The practice of genealogy for Mormons is used partly so they can perform proxy baptisms for the dead. In the 1990s, the use of proxy baptisms for Jews who perished during the Holocaust caused a great deal of controversy. Read more about that episode from CNN.com or PBS’s special on the Mormons.
For Mormon education …
is a product of Brigham Young University, which lays out various options for Mormon higher education. You’ll find links for BYU, BYU Idaho, BYU Hawaii, LDS Business College, and Institutes of Religion. Look for general admissions information, high school preparation details, college financing suggestions, and more. You may also want to take a look at BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies
For Mormon books …
is a publisher and retailer associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering an abundant collection of Mormon books and other material. Purchase Scripture on this site as well.
allows you to listen to audio of Mormon Scriptures on its site. Either read or listen to the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
For Mormon music …
provides a large selection of Mormon music available for free download. Easily search the site for the song you want and preview the song before downloading it. The music is available in many different languages.
For genealogy tools …
was created because of the importance of family in the Mormon faith. Although this is a Mormon endeavor, FamilySearch.org has become a tremendous tool for anyone tracing his or her family lineage. Search the database using a number of possible criteria. There are also specific databases for Jewish and African-American genealogy on this site, although all religions and ethnicities can be searched with the main search engine at the top of the page.
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