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Mormonism (also called Latter Day Saint theology or Mormon theology and Latter Day Saint culture or Mormon culture) is a religion, ethnic group, movement, ideology and subculture originating in the early 1800s as a product of the Latter Day Saint movement. The term Mormonism is also often used to refer specifically to the theology and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is by far the largest and best-known religion among sects claiming derivation from Joseph Smith, Jr.. However, the LDS Church and other sects of Mormonism, such as the Community of Christ (the next largest organization), often disagree heavily on fundamental doctrinal issues. Therefore, this article is not intended to describe the beliefs of any particular Mormon denomination; instead, it is meant as a broad outline of the things in common between most people who trace their religions' beginnings to Joseph Smith.

Mormonism is based on belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, in the Israelites as a covenant people, and in additional scripture such as the Book of Mormon; as a form of Restorationism, it professes a restoration to the earth of the original Church instituted by Christ himself and thought to have been lost in a Great Apostasy after the death of Christ. Consequently, it has had complex and uneasy relationships with both mainstream Christianity and mainstream Judaism, as discussed in Mormonism and Christianity and in Mormonism and Judaism. (Suggested Reading)

Most who practice Mormonism may be respectfully referred to as Latter Day Saints (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints typically use a hyphen). Other generally acceptable terms include LDS, Saints, and Mormons, although members of some sects other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prefer not to be identified as Mormons. A small minority view the terms Mormon and Mormonism as offensive slurs.


Mormonism as a theology

As a theology, Mormonism as a whole includes a highly diverse and eclectic cluster of religious beliefs. There is much in common with the Campbellite, Restorationist, and Universalist beliefs prevalent in the area where Joseph Smith was raised and where he began his ministry. Smith's theology was seen by contemporary Mormons as answering nearly all of the unresolved religious questions of his day. The bedrock Mormon belief, however, is the acceptance of modern prophecy; that is, that a divinely appointed individual in modern times has the authority to speak the mind or will of God for his people as a prophet and that each individual may receive personal revelation to guide them in their personal lives. Central to this theology is the belief that Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, was such a prophet.

Joseph Smith, when asked in 1842 what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believed, wrote what is now known as the Articles of Faith. Though the Articles of Faith are not a complete representation of the beliefs of Mormonism, they do represent some fundamental beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the Articles fail to mention certain controversial ordinances introduced by Joseph Smith shortly after he wrote the Articles.

Typical Mormon doctrines

Nature of God

  1. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are often described in scripture as one God (2 Nephi 31:21); however, the one Godhead is in reality three separate beings who are unified in purpose and heart (John 17:21-23). This belief is distinguished from the concept of the Trinity where God is manifested as three separate individuals, but is one God as codified in 325 at the Council of Nicea. The Community of Christ is one Mormon sect that rejects this doctrine and that of the Godhead in favor of Trinitarian theology.
  2. God the Father and Jesus Christ have tangible, perfected bodies of flesh and bone.
  3. Humans are children of a Father in Heaven, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ they can return to Him and be co-inheritor with Christ.

Jesus Christ

  1. Jesus Christ was the Only Begotten Son of God the Father.
  2. Because of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, all mankind is saved from death and will rise again and receive a perfected physical body.
  3. Furthermore, the Atonement satisfies the demands of justice; grace, forgiveness, and mercy (i.e. salvation) are extended to all who accept Christ as their personal Savior and become His life-long disciples.
  4. A disciple of Christ follows His teachings in humility, with faith, hope, love, charity, and gratitude..


  1. Humans are responsible for their own sins, and must repent.
  2. There is no original sin. Though individuals experience the effects of the Fall, only Adam and Eve are responsible for their decision.
  3. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by one who holds priesthood authority from God is needed for individual salvation.
  4. Although salvation is offered through the grace of God, He will not save the unrepentant, who will be punished for their sins.
  5. To receive eternal life, one must have faith and repent. In some Mormon sects, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are additional requirements for salvation and exaltation, including the ordinances of baptism, confirmation, the Endowment and Sealing (Marriage).

Pre-mortal life, human existence, and the afterlife

Mormons generally believe the soul passes through at least four stages of existence.

  1. Pre-mortal existence as spirit children of the Heavenly Father.
  2. A time of probation and gaining experience on earth, away from the presence of God (see Spiritual Death).
  3. A spirit world where the spirits of the dead reside until the resurrection. There, those who died without the opportunity to accept the restored Gospel in life will be taught by those who did accept the gospel in life (this is the reason why some Mormon sects, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe in vicarious baptism for the dead).
  4. Post-resurrection judgment and inheritance (for most people) of a kingdom of eternal glory (either Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial). However, those who knowingly deny and defy God, as Satan did, will become Sons of Perdition after coming forth in the last resurrection. They do not inherit a kingdom of glory, but instead are sentenced to recieve a punishment reserved only for those who know God lives and still choose to follow Satan. Culturally, members of the LDS Church often refer to this punishment as Outer Darkness.


  1. The Bible is the word of God as far as it has been translated correctly. There are various opinions about how literally to understand the Bible, even if correctly translated. Latter Day Saints generally believe that the truths in the Bible can be supported and understood with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the truths contained in The Book of Mormon.
  2. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
  3. Any revelation or official statement by a prophet-president is considered scripture. Many such revelations have been collected in the Doctrine and Covenants of various Mormonism sects.

Mormonisms' beliefs about other Christian and non-Christian religions

Mormons believe that:

  1. Joseph Smith, Jr. was guided in restoring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reestablishing the church organization that existed at the time of the New Testament Apostles.
  2. All other Christian churches drifted away from Christ's Church during the Great Apostasy, but nonetheless contain much truth.
  3. Only the church established by Joseph Smith has divine priesthood authority to perform ordinances necessary for salvation; nevertheless, many other sects and faiths (even non-Christian religions) have much of value to teach people.

Polygamy and early Mormonism

Main article: Plural marriage.

Claiming it was a commandment from God, Joseph Smith, Jr. introduced plural marriage to a very limited number of individuals prior to his death. This practice was very controversial, however, even within Joseph Smith's inner circle, and its practice was uncommon. Nevertheless, Brigham Young, successor to Joseph Smith, had over fifty wives; Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham, was another famous polygamist.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy for decades. However, the LDS Church abandoned the practice in 1890, after intense political pressure from the United States government prompted the 1890 Manifesto. Today, polygamy is still practiced by a number of small splinter organizations who disagree with the LDS Church in regards to the polygamy issue. See Polygamous Mormon Fundamentalists for an overview of some of these groups.

Recent Development

Recently, a few Latter Day Saint scholars have begun questioning the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon, as well as the reliability of much of the early Church's recorded history. The book by Grant Palmer, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins," has caused an insurgence of this type of questioning, leading a small number of Latter Day Saints to begin to view the Book of Mormon as a work of either allegory or fiction. However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to strongly proclaim that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and the majority of Latter-day Saints believe the Book of Mormon is factual.

See also

External links

Official denominational websites

Affiliated websites


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