The Mormon church was founded by Joseph Smith in the 1800s and is one of the fastest-growing in the United States. But how well do you know this religion? You may have seen “The Book of Mormon” or a “South Park” episode about Mormonism, but there is still more to learn, and if you’re like most people, there are a few misunderstandings to dispel.
Continue reading to discover about the religion’s history and foundation, as well as current statistics and data. Whether you’re a believer or not, there’s undoubtedly a lot to learn here. We’ll even debunk some prevalent misunderstandings.
It all began in the 1820s; 14-years old Joseph Smith, who grew perplexed about the many different branches of the Christian religion, claimed that Jesus came to him in a divine vision and revealed that none of the existing sects Christianity was genuinely correct.
Three years after this revelation, Smith also claimed to have been visited by an angel who sent him on a mission. The mission was to locate an ancient book engraved on golden plates. This book was the gospel of a group of people who formerly lived in the area in the ancient past. Smith built his lessons on this foundation. In 1830, Joseph established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).
If you have watched the “The Book of Mormon,” you may be led to believe that followers of the religion aren’t big fans of it. But you’d be wrong. The Church of Latter-Day Saints happens to be quite fond of the play, which was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of “South Park”). Premised on Smith’s religion, the play is written in Parker and Stone’s typical make-fun-of-everything pattern.
The play follows two Latter-day Saint missionaries trying to convert a rural Ugandan village to their faith. The villagers’ lack of enthusiasm is a challenge for the sincere young men. They are preoccupied with more serious issues such as HIV/AIDS, starvation, female genital mutilation, and tyranny by the local warlord.
Many individuals believe aliens are out there somewhere, whether because they observed some unusual lights at night or believe in the Fermi paradox. This is one belief that Mormons share as well, although in a slightly different way.
The Mormons believe that God created various other worlds asides from ours with other beings inhabiting them. According to the Church of Latter-day Saints, part of God’s plan for all of these creatures in the different worlds is to learn about His salvation plan through their prophets. They believe that each of these planets has its own prophet, like Joseph Smith.
Mormons have specific types of underwear, which is a well-known and often criticized fact about them. It’s known as a “temple garment.” This garment covers a considerable part of their body and also includes a variety of symbolic elements.
Members of the Mormon sect wear this garment underneath their clothing at all times. They must also wear them when attending significant services or visiting the Temple. According to legend, the garments symbolize the personal and holy qualities of their relationship with God. The design of this garment has evolved with time.
You’ve probably heard several tales about the protective properties of the special garments that Mormons wear. It is a common belief that this garment protects people from accidents, fires, and other catastrophic events. While the opinions of members are divided on the physical characteristics of the garment, most think that the garments protect them spiritually.
Joseph Smith preached that the garment was the most sacred thing a Mormon could have, second only to their virtue and purity of life. As a result, many members of the Church don’t take lightly to casual remarks regarding the clothing.
Like most religions, Mormons observe a rite of passage when they are inducted into a new stage of their faith. This special service which is held in the temple is called the “holy endowment ceremony.”
Many other faiths have specific sayings and gestures that are unique to them. But for the Church of Latter-day Saints, theirs is a secret handshake. They also have some secret phrases. The handshake, which is done through white curtains, is believed to be required to pass through heaven’s veil.
But while the specific details of the handshake and what it signifies is a closely guarded secret, it is deemed impolite to call it a “secret handshake.” What we do know is that the handshakes are a sort of reward for faithfulness. They also signify the completion of a Mormon’s learning and study and demonstrate trustworthiness and knowledge.
So rather than call them handshakes, Mormons refer to them as signs, seals, or tokens. With that said, it’s no surprise that Mormons shake hands a lot. A convert once remarked that they’re the most “handshaky” people he’s ever met. A Mormon handshake can also denote different interpretations, from saying “Hello” to agreeing to something.
One common myth about Mormons is that they avoid water-related activities. People believe that Mormons avoid water because they’re away from God’s protection when they are in or near it. But this isn’t quite true. In reality, the Mormon’s caution around a large body of water is no more than what everyone else has.
The water issue is more of a misconception. Mormons drink water, bathing, and cleaning dishes because all of these are completely safe, so why are larger bodies of water exempted? There are also instances in Mormon Scripture where people were baptized in lakes and other water bodies, which refute the spurious claim of water-haters.
So, where did this water misconception originate? One probable explanation stemmed from an event in the Church’s early days. Smith and several elders were said to have been traveling down the Missouri River in canoes. They encountered several perils, and one of the elders claimed to have seen the face of Satan in the waves.
Soon after this event, Smith said he had another vision in which God told him that the water had been cursed by “My servant John.” Initially, this vision was interpreted to refer to the Missouri River on which they were traveling that day. But with time, the story was skewed and expanded to include all vast bodies of water.
One Mormon belief that is heavily contradictory to other Christian faiths is the belief that Jesus Visited America after his death and resurrection. This is not just another passing belief or misconception. Mormons believe America is the promised land and this story about Jesus visiting is one of the central themes of their religion.
Not only did Jesus Visit America, but he also carried out several miracles while he was there. The LDS Church considers America the Biblical Promised land and that the Millennial New Jerusalem referenced in the Bible will be established in America.
Christians believe that Jesus will return to Earth one day. But Mormons take this belief a step further by saying Jesus will return to American just as he did after his resurrection. They say on his return, he will travel to the Mormon Temple in Jackson County, Missouri, and rule over the Earth from there.
After departing New York, Smith, the church’s first elders, and his earliest followers, originally moved to Missouri. It was there that Smith wanted to build a New Jerusalem or City of Zion, but they were forced to leave due to local disputes.
Most religions believe God is in the “Sky” above us. Others consider him as an invisible force that is all around us everywhere we go. But the Mormons have a slightly different belief. While they also agree that God is “in the sky,” they believe this hasn’t always been the case.
According to Mormonism, God was once an ordinary man who roamed around Earth, like any of us. He did this because he wanted to guide humanity to follow that would lead them closer to godliness and salvation.
This belief about God walking the earth like a man would not be so outrageous if interpreted in the light of the concept of the trinity widely believed by many traditional Christian sects. After all, Jesus is God and Jesus Walked the earth. The only problem is that the LDS doesn’t see the trinity the way conservative Christian sects do.
To the LDS, while there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit, they are considered separate and distinct beings who are only similar in purpose and thought. Collectively, they’re called the Godhead. . They also believe that the human spirit descends directly from God the Father.
Mormons stretch their belief about God a little further with the doctrine that man can aspire to be God. Even more interesting is their belief that God (and that’s the supreme God and father of all creation) isn’t the first God to have ever existed.
According to this doctrine, before him, there was a God, and before that God, there was another, and so on, leading to what is known as an unending cycle of God that has existed for “reverse eternity,” which means there was no actual beginning. I feel like I have a headache brewing with all that information.
Most people are familiar with the heavenly father, but how about the “Heavenly Mother.” Believe it or not, some Mormons pay to the Heavily mother who is considered the mother of all creation and spouse of God the Father’s. Of course, this has caught chiefly on among feminist Mormons. The majority of the LDS church authority reject this notion insisting that prayer should only be addressed to the Heavenly Father.
This doctrine is hardly ever discussed, but it still appears in some church sermons and hymns once in a while. Smith’s views about this belief are not well established, but many have claimed that he knew this doctrine and might have thought it.
Like every good plan, God’s ultimate plan, according to the Mormons, involves a few twists. According to the LDS Church, the Earth will someday be “baptized by fire.” Subsequently, Jesus Christ will return and reign over it.
Furthermore, when this event occurs, the already dead will become resurrected with healthy new bodies. Those who are alive to witness this fiery baptism will also be changed by it.
Mormons believe in seer stones as a way to receive revelations from God. But it is very likely that Joseph Smith only included this information into the doctrines of the church he founded as a way to push for the acceptance of the practice for which he had been accused and prosecuted.
In his days, performing magic and stone gazing wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. To avoid problems with the law, he is believed to have incorporated this information into his new religion
Cosmology in Mormonism is a lot different and exceedingly complicated compared to other religions. Mormons believe that there are three heavens instead of just one. First, there is the afterlife which is the equivalent of what many people consider Heaven. Then there’s the spirit prison which is the equivalence of hell.
Things get complicated in the context of where souls go after final judgment. Mormons believe there are four options here. The celestial kingdom is where God and the believers will dwell. Then there’s the Terrestrial Kingdom, which will be home to those who obeyed Moses’ commandments but were not followers of Smith’s religion. The Telestial Kingdom will also be home to individuals who lived a fairly moral life but were not Mormons Christians. Finally, the outer darkness is cast by the bad people who oppose God or worship Satan.
Mormons are more likely to be recruited into the CIA, FBI, and law enforcement agencies than any other social group. The main reason for this is because they are known for their high moral standards and abstinence from potentially dangerous substances.
These organizations expressly set up programs that help them connect to the LDS population and recruit them. In fact, there have even been instances in the past where FBI operatives have doubled as bishops in the Mormon Church.
Most people seem to consider Utah as the center of the Mormon church. This is quite understandable because up to 68% of people in the State practice religion. But contrary to popular expectation, Missouri is the seat of power of the Mormon Church.
According to Joseph Smith, the virtuous would gather in Missouri when Jesus Christ returns. There are also claims of Missouri being the location of the biblical Garden of Eden. Ironically, a lot of these revelations don’t sit well with many inhabitants of Missouri.
Baptism is an important aspect of the Mormon faith, as it is in many other Christian groups. But one area where their doctrine about baptism differs from that of others is that they believe that a person can still be baptized posthumously.
This doctrine stems from the belief that anyone that isn’t baptized in the Mormon Church while still alive will get sent to a Spirit prison in the afterlife where they have to be taught the gospel. To escape this, a living person has to be baptized on the dead person’s behalf. This gesture, however, is not extended to people with a political standing or sensitive history.
One of the widely-held assumptions about Mormons is that they believe in Polygamy. But this is not true at all. While many of the early followers of the religion, including Joseph Smith, practiced polygamy (Smith had over 40 wives), the practice was later outlawed towards the end of the 19th century.
It is believed that many church members openly condemned Smith’s Polygamous life while he was alive. Although certain fundamentalist LDS sects still accept polygamy, the mainstream LDS church declares that marriage is between men and women.
Anyone familiar with the Christian faith will know what tithing is. It involves paying a certain portion of your earnings to the church. The funds generated this way keep the church running and allows the church to undertake various missions. Mormons do something similar but with some differences
As one of God’s commandments, believers are expected to pay 10% of their annual income to the Church. The Mormon church is said to receive in the range of $5 billion in tithing funds each year as a result of this practice.
Several different names know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Of course, “the Mormons” is the most popular of these names. But they don’t fancy that name. Rather, they prefer the Church’s full name, LDS, or simply LDS Church.
This is because Mormonism as theology is quite expansive. There are several offshoot sects like the Mormon fundamentalists and others. Furthermore, some persons connect with the culture but disagree with theology. These people refer to themselves as “cultural Mormons,” thus further muddying the terminology.
As expected, traditional Christians and the LDS Church have a sort of rocky relationship. During the early years of the Church, Smith and his followers were violently persecuted. Before eventually settling in Utah, he and his followers were chased out of many Midwest towns.
Smith was also constantly threatened with death, and in fact, died as a result of one of such threats while still awaiting trial. He is also the only presidential candidate to meet such a fate, given he was running for president of the United States at the time. For the LDS Church to find safety, it had to relocate to Utah’s untamed wilderness & Salt Lake City.
The rivalry between these two sects has persisted today, even though many religious conservatives would not call the LDS Church Christians owing to differences in doctrine. The rivalry deepened in the 1900s when the Southern Baptist Church held its annual convention in Salt Lake City, intending to convert some members of the Mormon church living in the area.
Back then, 3,000 baptist volunteers started a door-to-door missionary plan as well. While the conversations remained friendly, the SBC’s events took several jabs at the LDS Church.
Of course, the LDS Church was not pleased with all of these.
Members of the LDS Church are encouraged to have as many kids as they can. The main reason for this is that they believe that everyone on earth once had a “spiritual life” before birth. This belief is a bit similar to traditional Christian belief.
However, they differ in that Mormon couples believe it is their responsibility to create bodies for these spirits who have not yet arrived on Earth. They also believe that doing this has the added effect of strengthening one’s faith. However, this doctrine is not mandatory. Each couple still has the freedom to have the number of children they desire.
Coffee is an important part of most people’s day that completely avoiding it seems a little difficult. But this is something Mormons are encouraged to do. Besides herbal teas, Mormons are not permitted to consume any “hot drinks,” including coffee. They believe the drinks are unhealthy, and doctrine forbids believers from consuming them, along with alcohol.
Abstaining from alcohol is understandable due to the dangers of overconsumption and dependency. Caffeine also has its issues. But staying away from all hot beverages? It’s an intriguing option.
The body, according to Mormonism, is a holy gift. As a result, believers are very serious about their health. They eat mindfully and exercise regularly. One UCLA study found that Mormons are half as likely to die from cancer and cardiovascular disorder as non-Mormons.
In addition, their average life expectancy is between 8 to 11 years longer. Of course, many likely reasons can account for this, but paying attention to what you put into your body and getting plenty of exercise is a very safe bet for living longer.
Stephanie Meyer, the author of “Twilight,” is a Mormon who based the novel on the concept of “celestial marriage.” The concept of “celestial marriage” states that once a couple is married on Earth, they will also be married in the afterlife.
In the “Twilight” series, the characters follow Mormon values (asides from the vampire issues, of course). When Bella and Edward get married, and Bella starts to die, Edward had no choice but to transform her into a vampire. This means they will remain a pair forever — though not in the same sense that the LDS Church explains it.
Small details further hint at Mormonism in the extended edition of the “Twilight” series. One of these is the series’ element of imprinting, which is one of the werewolves’ experiences.
When they find someone perfect for them, they become instantly enamored with the person right away. They are unable to suppress their emotions. Many people believe that Mormonism gave birth to the concept of soul mates. The doctrine does not, however, include the concept of soul mates.
Meyer has stated that she did not put any Mormon elements on purpose, but it is evident that most of what she wrote in the book was written based on her perception of the world, which is a fairly common writer practice.
Bella avoids coffee, tea, wine, and tobacco throughout the books, and she discusses the Mormon concept that humans can aspire to divinity and then be resurrected. However, it is worth noting that the entire franchise is a work of fiction and is not an accurate representation of Mormon beliefs or lifestyles.
According to the Mormon creed, some members of the Abrahamic family or people related to them migrated to the Americas from the Middle East around 600 B.C. These people are grouped into four families called Lamanites, Jaredites, Mulekites, and Nephites based on the name of their patriarchs.
After the other groups fell out of favor with God, the Lamanites subdued and destroyed them, becoming the most powerful. Mormons believe that these were the ancestors of the Native American tribes.
According to the Book of Mormon, when conflict broke out between the settlers from the Middle East, Jesus appeared to them to settle their dispute and restore order. But the errant humans continued to fight. These American tribes grew into distinct races.
This includes not only Native Americans but also Polynesians and Southeast Asian peoples. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frequently advocates that the Native American tribes should be treated fairly, believing them to be their forefathers and an integral part of their beliefs.
The Mormons have a simple trick they believe can help someone identify if a messenger is truly from God. If someone approaches you and tells you God has sent them to give you a message, a simple way to tell if the message is genuine is to extend your hand for a handshake.
If you can feel a tight grip from the person, you’re dealing with a genuine angel delivering the true word of God. But if you cannot sense anything, it is a demon posing as an angel.
If you live in the American Metropolis, you’ve probably met some fresh-faced young males in white shirts, black ties, and black slacks ready to converse. These are missionaries, and they play an important role in Mormon culture.
These friendly individuals will try to strike up a conversation with you about faith and the LDS Church. Mormons between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five are expected to go on mission trips (usually between eighteen to twenty-four months in duration) to spread the gospel.
Missionaries frequently describe their years on the field as the happiest of their lives. During these times, they visit new places and meet new people to engage in meaningful faith conversations and possibly convert to the Church.
Because these missionaries frequently travel to different nations, many of them speak many languages. For them, these missions are not merely evangelism; They are frequently for humanitarian purposes too. Although neither gender is mandated to go on these missions, men are expected to serve on one. Women are also welcome to do so if they want.
One of the most fascinating beliefs in the LDS church is that Jesus and the Devil were once brothers. This is, of course, a significant deviation from the conventional Christian Doctrine. This theory is hinged on the Mormon Belief in God as a celestial parent and the true and living Father of all souls.
This would mean God is the father of both Jesus, Satan, and all the angels. Mormons call Jesus the “elder son,” while Satan is the “second son.” This odd twist would also mean that Jesus and Satan are kin with humans. We have so many questions!
The average age that most Americans marry is twenty-seven. But for the Mormon church, this age is a lot less. Most members of the LDS church find a suitable mate and start a family at around age 23.
This stems from the belief that the family is a crucial part of God’s plan, and it should not be delayed by a career, education, or any other reasons, although those other things matter to God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that marriages are forever and that the vows the couples take at their wedding are a commitment between them and God. This means they take the phrase “till death do us part” very seriously. Divorces are still possible, both legally and spiritually, but the believers would rather settle difficulties with open hearts, and the relationship should be continued in love.
To be honest, it’s not a terrible way of looking at things. The doctrine seems to pay off: The divorce rate among full Mormon couples is at 25%, significantly lower than the national average.
The LDS Church has over 6.5 million members in the United States and over 16 million members worldwide. It is America’s 4-largest religion and one of the world’s fastest-growing religions. The church grows by about a million every three years.
The church emphasizes missions as well as active humanitarian aids. Members of the church also donate actively, which means there’s plenty of money to go around for helping those in need and reaching to new communities.
According to the LDS Church, you either go to Paradise or “Spirit Prison” after death. Paradise, in this case, is similar to the traditional heaven references in many religions. But their idea of Spirit prison is not the same as the classic conception of Hell.
There are no devils with a pitchfork or scalding flames. Instead, the prison is for those who have either never heard of the LDS gospel or failed to accept this. Those who have committed an unforgivable sin and have been cast into the Outer Darkness, which is a little more like what we imagine when we think of Hell (though still not entirely the same).
Weekly family time is strongly encouraged. The goal is for families to read scripture, pray, play games, and catch up on stuff together to strengthen their bonds. Mondays are often the days that most Mormon families opt to spend time together as a family.
Since 1970, when Joseph Fielding Smith, who was this LDS president at the time, issued an order encouraging local congregations not to schedule events on Mondays to allow families to spend time together, things have remained the same. While not all families adhere to the Monday routine, it is by far the most popular.
While the primary objective of Family Night is to strengthen family, many have come to realize that it offers many benefits, especially in this modern era. People de-stress by turning off or putting away their televisions, computers, and phones, rather than drowning themselves in social media or world news.
Family time allows people to take a break from technology, becoming increasingly popular as smartphones dominate the world. Even if you aren’t a member of the Mormon Church, try putting aside the media for an evening or a whole day — you might find yourself feeling renewed.
Since its inception, the LDS Church has had 16 presidents, which is quite a lot since it is a relatively new faith. The first, as expected, was Joseph Smith, who served as president from the time of the organization’s founding until he died in 1844. Brigham Young, who came after him, served for thirty years, from 1847 to 1877.
John Taylor was next, but he only led the church for seven years. Several presidents, notably Joseph F. Smith, the church leader from 1901 to 1918, and his son Joseph Fielding Smith (1970 to 1972), were family members or direct descendants — of Joseph Smith or his brother Hyrum Smith.
Anyone who played sports in college or went to school in Utah will most likely be familiar with the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The university is a private institution under the sponsorship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The institution, named after the Church’s second president, offers 179 undergraduate majors, 62 master’s degrees, and 27 doctorate programs. The university has two satellite campuses, one in Salt Lake City and the other in Jerusalem. It is the country’s largest private institution, with nearly 30,000 students.
Students at Brigham Young University are bound by a code of conduct that requires them to act following the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are specific standards for Grooming and dress codes that must be followed. The school also has rules regarding academic honesty, chastity, and there’s a ban on illegal substances, tea, alcohol, tea, and tobacco.
As expected, most students in the school are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Up to 66% of students often defer their education take on missionary work during their study.
One of the stories commonly told as proof of Joseph Smith’s polygamy was that on one occasion, Emma Smith, his first wide, once pushed another of his wife (who was pregnant) down a flight of stairs in a jealous fit. The fall caused the wife to lose her child. But while Smith’s polygamy is a well-known fact, this particular story is difficult to verify.
Some believe Smith banned his wives from admitting they were married to him even though polygamy was not outlawed at the time and was a widely accepted practice within the society he founded.
One of the more amusing beliefs in the Mormon world is the origin of the legendary Big Foot. It is a common belief in the Mormon Church that Cain, who was cursed for killing his brother Abel was turned into the hairy beast similar to the mythical Sasquatch or Bigfoot.
However, this story isn’t exactly ingrained in the LDS church doctrine. It is merely a simple story that got picked up along the way. Also, there’s a story about a man named Patten who had claimed to have seen the mythical beast at some point.
But there’s some record of David Patten’s Bigfoot story in Mormon circles. There’s a letter by Abraham O. Smoot that gives a second-hand account of David Patten’s 1835 account sighting Bigfoot.
The letter reads in part, “A truly remarkable individual who identified himself as Cain. As I sat in my saddle, his head was approximately level with my shoulders. He had a lot of hair on him. His skin was a deep shade of brown. When I asked him where he lived, he said he didn’t have a house and was a wanderer in the world who went back and forth. He claimed to be a miserable creature who had fervently desired death during his time on Earth, but that he was unable to die, and that his job was to ruin men’s souls.”
Edwin Rushton’s prophecy about the White Horse, which he gave in 1900 and is often attributed to Joseph Smith, is one of the most significant statements about the future believed by members of the Mormon sect.
As the prophecy goes, the LDS Church as a whole would one day go to the Rocky Mountains as “a great and mighty people.” This prophecy also references one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in revelations.
Although it is not a mandatory church doctrine, it is common knowledge that Mormons are encouraged to avoid caffeine. It’s odd, then, that there’s a rumor about the church owning the
Coca-Cola Company or having a major stake in it.
How crazy would it be if this rumor is one day confirmed to be true? It would be incredible to discover that the church profits from the same thing it has constantly demonized.
On the other hand, the Church keeps all of its investment assets private, so we’ll probably never know.
A common myth about the LDC Church is that its adherents believe that a rainbow-less sky would indicate that Jesus Christ’s Second Coming is approaching and that the end is imminent
However, according to their website, Church doctrine does not mention this. The first mention of a rainbow in the Old Testament occurs in Genesis, where God establishes a covenant with humanity after the flood. As a result, it is believed that the covenant will be voided if the rainbows stop appearing in the sky; the covenant is deemed void.
Since the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, rumors have widely spread that the backward-speaking Jedi teacher Yoda was modeled after Spencer W. Kimball, a Mormon Church president. Furthermore, some believe that while producing the films, George Lucas communicated with church officials.
According to Anne Merrifield, George Lucas’ secretary when he was the head of Lucasfilm Ltd, both tales are entirely wrong. Yoda’s face was based on that of renowned scientist Albert Einstein.
One of the major long-standing principles of the LDS church is not running a paid ministry.
Members of the Church who serve as senior leaders are paid a monthly stipend to help them cover their expenditures while in the church’s service, but the amount is undisclosed. It likely varies from one individual to the other.
The Church, however, makes it clear that this stipend is a lot less than what executives receive in other organizations. Also, this stipend is paid from business profits rather than tithing contributions from members. Also, the practice of members of the church authority sitting on the board of business owned by the church and getting paid for this was phased out in 1996.
Seven years after Joseph Smith’s first vision, the Book of Mormon was published. Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was a new covenant between God and the House of Israel.
The book of Mormon is wrapped around and expanded on both the “old” and “new” covenants of Judaism and Christianity. It was first published in March of 1830, and it has since been reprinted and sold about 200 million copies.