Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This religious movement emerged in the early 19th century and has grown into a global community with millions of followers. In this article, we will explore the core beliefs, practices, and history of the Latter-day Saints, shedding light on what sets this religion apart. So, what religion is Latter-day Saints exactly? Let’s delve into the details and discover more about this unique faith.
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What Religion is Latter-day Saints?
Latter-day Saints is a distinctive religion that identifies itself as a restorationist Christian denomination. The movement was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in upstate New York in the 1820s. According to Smith, he had a series of divine revelations and encounters with heavenly beings, which led to the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830.
Origin of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
The origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often simply referred to as the Latter-day Saints or Mormons, can be traced back to the early 19th century in the United States. Its foundation represents a remarkable chapter in the broader context of American religious history, marked by a potent blend of religious fervor, individual vision, and a new take on Christianity.
The story begins with Joseph Smith Jr., born on December 23, 1805, in Vermont. In the early 1820s, Smith, like many during the Second Great Awakening, was swept up in the religious enthusiasm that pervaded the Burned-Over District of upstate New York. Smith’s personal spiritual journey took a distinctive turn in 1820 when he reported experiencing a theophany, known to followers as the First Vision. In this divine manifestation, he claimed to have been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, who supposedly told him that all existing churches were false.
Further pivotal events ensued. In 1823, Smith reported being visited by an angel named Moroni, who revealed the location of golden plates buried in a nearby hill. These plates, according to Smith, contained the record of ancient peoples who had lived in the Americas, including a group of Israelites who had journeyed across the ocean around 600 BCE.
In 1827, Smith reported retrieving these golden plates and began translating them into English. This translation became the Book of Mormon, which Latter-day Saints believe to be another testament of Jesus Christ, complementing and enhancing the biblical narrative. Smith claimed that he was guided in his translation by the Urim and Thummim, seer stones that were also reportedly buried with the golden plates.
With the Book of Mormon in hand, Smith officially organized the Church of Christ, as it was initially named, on April 6, 1830. The small initial congregation was composed of his family members and the few who had helped him produce the Book of Mormon. The nascent church faced opposition and persecution almost immediately, leading to a series of migrations over the next decade.
The first of these migrations took the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio, where they constructed their first temple and saw substantial growth. However, financial difficulties and internal disputes led to a schism in the Kirtland community, and Smith relocated the church headquarters to Missouri. Here, the Saints found themselves embroiled in violent conflict with non-Mormon settlers, ultimately resulting in what Latter-day Saints remember as the Missouri Persecution.
The Saints then moved again, this time to Nauvoo, Illinois. Here they built another city from scratch, complete with another temple. But again, opposition and conflict found them. Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested on charges of treason in 1844, and while in jail, a mob stormed the facility and murdered them both.
After Smith’s death, a leadership crisis ensued, with the majority following Brigham Young, who led the Saints on a grand migration westward, to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Young’s leadership helped establish a robust and lasting community, building on Smith’s vision and doctrine.
The early history of the Latter-day Saints is thus a story of religious innovation, persecution, and migration. From Joseph Smith’s first vision in upstate New York to the establishment of a vibrant community in the Salt Lake Valley, the origins of this faith reflect a distinctively American blend of religious enthusiasm, frontier spirit, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global religion with millions of members around the world, its roots firmly planted in its tumultuous early 19th-century origins.
Core Beliefs of Latter-day Saints
Latter-day Saints embrace a set of beliefs that differ from traditional Christian doctrines in some significant ways. Here are the key tenets that form the foundation of their faith:
- The central teachings of the Mormon Church revolve around the teachings and revelations of Jesus Christ. The main doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is the Son of God, and through his atonement, all people can be saved and return to live with Him in the Celestial Kingdom.
- The Bible and the Book of Mormon are seen as the two main sources of religious truth and guidance. The Book of Mormon is believed to be a “second witness” of Jesus Christ, and is seen as a companion to the Bible.
- Mormons believe in continuing revelation, in which God continues to reveal His will to His prophets in the modern day.
- Mormons believe in the concept of eternal progression, which is the idea that people can continue to progress and gain knowledge throughout eternity.
- Mormons believe that families can be together forever, and that the family unit is the foundation of society.
- Mormons believe that all people are children of God, and should be treated with love and respect.
- Mormons believe that all people have the potential to be like God, and that through faith, repentance, and obedience to God’s commandments, they can become more like Him.
- Mormons believe that the purpose of this life is to prepare us to live with God in the afterlife.
- Mormons believe in the importance of service and charity, and that it is our duty to help and serve those in need.
- Mormons believe in the importance of living a moral life, and that moral actions can bring about great blessings.
1. The Restoration of the Gospel
Latter-day Saints believe that through Joseph Smith, God restored the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which had been lost or corrupted over time. They regard their church as a restoration of the original Christian church established by Jesus Christ.
2. The Book of Mormon – History
Central to the faith of Latter-day Saints is the Book of Mormon, which they consider to be another testament of Jesus Christ. They believe that the Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, contains the fullness of the gospel.
The history of the Book of Mormon is inextricably intertwined with the narrative of the Latter-day Saint movement. In its simplest terms, the Book of Mormon is a religious text of the Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons. Its history can be traced back to Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Latter-day Saint tradition, and its enduring influence is integral to understanding the doctrines and development of this faith.
The narrative of the Book of Mormon’s origin begins in 1823 when Joseph Smith reported a visitation by an angel named Moroni. According to Smith, Moroni revealed the location of a set of golden plates buried in a hill near his home in Manchester, New York. These golden plates, Smith claimed, contained the records of ancient inhabitants of the Americas, who were, in fact, descendants of the Israelites.
In 1827, Smith said he was finally allowed to retrieve the golden plates. He then undertook the task of translating the “Reformed Egyptian” hieroglyphics engraved on these plates into English. Smith claimed that he was divinely aided in this translation process by the Urim and Thummim, a pair of seer stones that were reportedly buried alongside the plates.
The result of Smith’s translation effort is the Book of Mormon, first published in March 1830. The text purports to tell the story of two great civilizations that inhabited the ancient Americas. The first group, known as the Jaredites, arrived in America at the time of the Tower of Babel. The second and more prominent group in the Book of Mormon narrative was the Nephites, who migrated from Jerusalem around 600 BCE, just before the Babylonian captivity. They were led by a prophet named Lehi and his family.
The Book of Mormon describes the civilizations these groups established, their wars, their religious practices, and their interactions with Jesus Christ, who is said to have visited the Americas after his resurrection. The narrative ends with the destruction of the Nephite civilization by another group, the Lamanites, around 400 CE.
The Book of Mormon was not without its critics. The historical and archaeological evidence supporting its claims has been widely disputed. However, for the faithful, it is not an object of academic scrutiny, but a sacred text, the keystone of their faith.
Post-publication, the Book of Mormon played a significant role in attracting new converts and shaping Latter-day Saint theology. Its teachings helped define key doctrines, including the concept of continuing revelation, the nature of God and Jesus Christ, the purpose of life and the afterlife, and the essential ordinances such as baptism and temple rituals.
Over the years, the Book of Mormon has been translated into more than 100 languages, significantly expanding its reach. As of the early 21st century, more than 150 million copies have been printed, testifying to its central role in the Latter-day Saint faith.
In summary, the history of the Book of Mormon is integral to the Latter-day Saints. Its story is a testament to the faith’s origins and its ongoing influence. From its controversial beginnings to its role in shaping Latter-day Saint theology and attracting millions of converts worldwide, the Book of Mormon has been and continues to be central to the Latter-day Saint faith and its identity.
3. Modern Revelation
Latter-day Saints believe in ongoing revelation from God. They believe that the President of the Church, who is considered a prophet, receives guidance and direction directly from God.
4. The Plan of Salvation
Latter-day Saints have a unique understanding of the plan of salvation. They believe that all individuals lived as spirits before birth and that Earthly life is a crucial part of God’s plan for the eternal progression of His children.
Practices and Worship
Latter-day Saints engage in various practices and forms of worship that reflect their religious beliefs. Here are some noteworthy aspects of their religious practices:
Hierarchy of the Mormon Church – Latter-day saints
- President of the Church: The President of the Church is the leader and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the head of the Church and is considered to have the same authority as the original apostles. The President is assisted by two counselors who are called the First Presidency.
- Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the second-highest governing body in the Church. This quorum is comprised of 12 apostles who are called to serve God and the Church. They are responsible for teaching and testifying of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and helping to build and maintain the Church.
- First Quorum of the Seventy: The first quorum of the Seventy is made up of 70 men who are called to serve as special witnesses of Jesus Christ and to help lead the Church. They are divided into seven quorums and are responsible for overseeing the work of the Church in various areas.
- Presiding Bishopric: The Presiding Bishopric is composed of three men who serve as the presiding officers of the Church. They are responsible for overseeing the temporal affairs of the Church, including finances, building projects, and other matters related to the Church’s welfare.
- Stake Presidents and Bishops: Stake presidents and bishops are local leaders of the Church who are responsible for leading their respective stakes and wards. Stake presidents are called to lead and serve their stake, while bishops are called to serve and lead their wards.
- Relief Society, Young Men’s, Young Women’s, and Primary: The Relief Society, Young Men’s, Young Women’s, and Primary organizations are auxiliaries of the Church that are responsible for providing spiritual and temporal support for members of the Church.
- Missionaries: Missionaries are called to serve full-time missions for the Church. They are responsible for teaching and testifying of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
- Family History Centers and Temples: Family History Centers and Temples are places of worship and learning for members of the Church. Family History Centers are responsible for helping members trace their ancestral lines, while Temples are responsible for performing sacred ordinances and blessings.
1. Mormon Temple and Ordinances
Temples hold great significance in the faith of Latter-day Saints. These sacred buildings are used for special ordinances, such as baptism for the dead, eternal marriages, and other rituals aimed at uniting families for eternity.
2. Sunday Worship (Mormon Faith)
Latter-day Saints attend Sunday worship services, which consist of three hours of meetings. The primary focus is on studying the scriptures, partaking in the sacrament (similar to Communion), and receiving instruction from church leaders.
3. Family Values (Mormon Marriages)
The family is considered essential in the Latter-day Saint faith. The church places great emphasis on strong family relationships, including marriage, parenting, and the eternal nature of familial bonds.
- Faith in Jesus Christ: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, places a high value on faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He atoned for the sins of all mankind, is essential to being a member of the Church.
- Obedience to God’s Commandments: The Church teaches its members to obey the commandments of God, as revealed through scripture and modern-day prophets. This includes keeping the Word of Wisdom, abstaining from alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco, and living a life of moral purity.
- Honoring the Family: Mormons place great importance on the family unit. They believe that families can be eternal through temple ordinances and that families are essential to the development and growth of children. Mormon families strive to live together in harmony and love.
- Compassion for Others: Mormons are taught to have a compassionate and loving attitude towards all people, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds. Mormons believe in ministering to the needs of others and helping those in need.
- Service: Members of the Church are strongly encouraged to serve in their communities. This includes donating time and money to charitable causes, providing service to those in need, and helping those in the Church who may be in need of assistance.
- Education: The Church places a high value on education, and encourages its members to pursue higher education and professional development. The Church also provides many educational opportunities and resources for its members.
- Self-Reliance: The Church encourages its members to be self-reliant and to provide for their own needs. This includes finding gainful employment, managing finances responsibly, and living within one’s means.
10 Dietary Values of the Mormon Church
- Abstinence from Alcohol: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) strongly encourages its members to abstain from drinking alcohol, which is considered to be a tool of the devil and a source of temptation. The Church teaches that consuming alcohol can lead to addiction, poor judgment, and destruction.
- Abstinence from Drugs: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly encourages its members to abstain from using all forms of drugs, including tobacco, marijuana, and other recreational drugs. The Church teaches that drug use can lead to addiction, poor judgment, and destruction.
- Abstinence from Coffee and Tea: The LDS Church also teaches its members to abstain from drinking coffee and tea, which is considered to be an unhealthy habit.
- Eating Meat Sparingly: The Church encourages its members to limit their intake of meat, and to only consume it in moderation. This is based on the belief that consuming too much meat can lead to health problems.
- Eating Whole Grains: The Church encourages its members to eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet. Whole grains provide important nutrients and can help to reduce the risk of various diseases.
- Eating Fruits and Vegetables: The LDS Church also encourages its members to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Eating Healthy Fats: The Church encourages its members to include healthy fats in their diet, such as fish, nuts, and avocados. Eating healthy fats can help to reduce the risk of various diseases.
- Eating Healthy Sweets: The Church also encourages its members to include healthy sweets in their diet, such as dark chocolate, dates, and dried fruits. Eating healthy sweets can help to reduce the risk of various diseases.
- Eating in Moderation: The Church encourages its members to eat in moderation and to avoid overeating. Overeating can lead to health problems and can be detrimental to overall health.
- Avoiding Processed Foods: The LDS Church encourages its members to avoid processed foods, which are often high in calories, fat, and salt. Eating processed foods can lead to health problems.
History of Polygamy in the Mormon Church
The practice of polygamy, or plural marriage, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a significant, though complex and controversial, part of its history. Here is a timeline of key events related to polygamy in the Latter-day Saint movement:
- 1831: Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, is said to have received a revelation about polygamy during his work on the translation of the Bible, though there’s no evidence of its practice at this time.
- 1843: Joseph Smith publicly denies practicing polygamy but privately marries multiple women. The revelation sanctioning polygamy is reportedly dictated by Smith but remains uncanonized during his lifetime.
- 1844: After Joseph Smith’s death, there is significant disagreement among the Latter-day Saints about the practice and teaching of polygamy.
- 1852: Under the leadership of Brigham Young, the Latter-day Saints publicly announce the practice of polygamy.
- 1862: The U.S. Congress passes the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which President Lincoln signs into law, making polygamy illegal in the U.S. Territories. However, enforcement is lax.
- 1882: The U.S. Congress passes the Edmunds Act, strengthening penalties for polygamy and making it easier to prosecute polygamists.
- 1887: The U.S. Congress passes the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which disincorporates the LDS Church and confiscates its property.
- 1890: LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff issues the Manifesto, officially discontinuing the practice of polygamy.
- 1896: Utah is admitted as a state in the United States, partly in response to the LDS Church’s discontinuation of polygamy.
- 1904: LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith issues a Second Manifesto, reinforcing the Church’s stance against polygamy and establishing excommunication as the penalty for entering into or performing a plural marriage.
- Polygamy is not practiced in the mainstream LDS Church, and individuals who practice it cannot be members of the church. However, certain sects that have broken off from the mainstream LDS Church, often referred to as fundamentalist Mormons, continue the practice.
Understanding this timeline requires acknowledging that the LDS Church’s relationship to polygamy has shifted over time, reflecting changes in leadership, theology, and the legal and social environment in which the church operates. It’s also crucial to note that today, the LDS Church strongly distinguishes itself from groups practicing polygamy and has even supported legal efforts against polygamy in various jurisdictions.
List of Countries with their Current Mormon Populations
As of my last update in September 2021, I do not have the most recent statistics for the populations of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as Mormons) worldwide. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints periodically publishes statistical updates, including the number of church members in each country, on its official website.
However, I can provide information based on the last available data, which gives an idea of the distribution of Latter-day Saints globally. Note that the numbers might have changed:
- United States: Approximately 6.7 million
- Mexico: Approximately 1.5 million
- Brazil: Approximately 1.4 million
- Philippines: Approximately 800,000
- Chile: Approximately 600,000
- Peru: Approximately 600,000
- Argentina: Approximately 470,000
- Ecuador: Approximately 250,000
- Guatemala: Approximately 280,000
- Colombia: Approximately 210,000
- Canada: Approximately 200,000
- Bolivia: Approximately 210,000
- United Kingdom: Approximately 190,000
- Australia: Approximately 150,000
- Venezuela: Approximately 170,000
- France: Approximately 40,000
- Germany: Approximately 40,000
- Italy: Approximately 27,000
- Japan: Approximately 130,000
- South Korea: Approximately 90,000
These numbers represent estimates rather than precise counts. The actual number of active members in each country may be considerably lower than the numbers listed, as these figures often include individuals who have been baptized but are not currently attending church services.
For the most accurate and up-to-date statistics on Latter-day Saints populations worldwide, I would recommend checking the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Latter-day Saints
1. What is the origin of the name “Latter-day Saints”?
The term “Latter-day Saints” comes from the Book of Isaiah in the Bible. It refers to a prophecy of a future time when true followers of Christ would be called “saints” in the “latter days.”
2. Are Latter-day Saints considered Christians?
Yes, Latter-day Saints consider themselves to be Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and strive to follow His teachings.
3. How is the Church organized?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a hierarchical structure. At the top is the President of the
Church, who is regarded as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Below the President are two counselors and a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. There are also other general authorities, including Seventies and various auxiliary organizations.
4. Can anyone visit a Latter-day Saint temple?
Latter-day Saint temples are considered sacred and are reserved for special ordinances and worship. However, the Church also has meetinghouses where regular Sunday services and other activities take place, which are open to all.
5. Are Latter-day Saints allowed to have multiple spouses?
While the practice of polygamy was a part of early Church history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially discontinued the practice in 1890. Today, Latter-day Saints adhere to the principle of monogamy.
6. What is the role of missionary work in the Latter-day Saint faith?
Missionary work is highly significant in the Latter-day Saint faith. Young men and women are encouraged to serve as full-time missionaries for a period of time to share their beliefs and teachings with others. This outreach effort has contributed to the global growth of the Church.
Final Thoughts – What Religion is Latter-Day Saints
In conclusion, the Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a restorationist Christian denomination founded by Joseph Smith Jr. Their core beliefs include the restoration of the gospel, the significance of the Book of Mormon, ongoing revelation, and a unique understanding of the plan of salvation. Latter-day Saints engage in various practices and forms of worship, including temple ordinances and Sunday worship services. They consider the family to be of utmost importance and place a strong emphasis on its values. While there are certain distinctive aspects to their faith, Latter-day Saints consider themselves to be Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.