by Jessie L. Embry
Scholars disagree on whether Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), can rightly be considered an ethnic group. Using survey results, sociologist Armand Mauss shows that Mormons are typical Americans. Canadian anthropologist Keith Parry, however, contends that Mormons have a distinctive lifestyle and language that set them apart from mainstream America. Much of the Mormon identity comes from its history. Members accept the Book of Mormon as a religious history of a people who saw the United States as a land of promise where Christ's church could be restored before His second coming. As historian Dean May explains, "The Mormons have been influenced subsequently by ritual tales of privation, wandering, and delivery under God's hand, precisely as the Jews have been influenced by their stories of the Exodus. A significant consequence of this tradition has been the development of an enduring sense of territoriality that has given a distinctive cast to Mormon group consciousness. It differentiates the Mormons from members of other sects and lends support to the judgment of [Catholic] sociologist Thomas F. O'Dea that the Mormons 'represent the clearest example to be found in our national history of the evolution of a native and indigenously developed ethnic minority "' (The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, 1980).
The Mormon church has grown to be more than an American religious denomination. Its 8,000,000-person membership in 1991 nearly covered the world and only half (4,336,000) lived in the United States. Of the one million converts in 1988 and 1989, 60 percent of them were from Mexico and Central and South America. Still, Utah is 77 percent Mormon, but only about one-eighth of the church members (1,363,000) live there.
The founder of the Mormon church in the United States, Joseph Smith, Jr., was the third son of a New England farming family. When he was a teenager, he attended a religious revival where his family lived in upstate New York. Confused by the different religions, Smith prayed for direction in 1820 and over the next few years recorded several personal revelations. He organized his first church on April 6, 1830. Members accepted him as a prophet who could speak the will of the Lord. As the church grew and developed, he received additional revelations that the Mormons view as scripture; these teachings are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.
From his New York base, Smith sent his followers out to seek converts; the majority of growth during this period occurred in Ohio. One of the first groups went to share the Book of Mormon with the Native Americans. When there were more Mormons in Ohio than in New York, Smith received a revelation that the church should move west. The first group arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, a few miles east of Cleveland, early in 1831. For the next seven years, Kirtland served as the church headquarters, and the Latter-day Saints built their first temple there.
But Smith made it clear that Kirtland was only a temporary home. In time, he predicted, God would ask Mormons to establish "Zion," a "New Jerusalem" to prepare for the millennium—the return of the Savior who would usher in a 1,000-year reign of peace. During the summer of 1831 Smith declared that this Zion would be established in Jackson County, Missouri. So Mormons started to gather there. However, tension arose between the Mormons, who opposed slavery, and slaveholding immigrants from Tennessee and Kentucky. The Mormons' claims that the territory was their promised land, their voting together as a bloc, and their communal living posed a threat to the Missourians' lifestyle, and the Mormons were eventually forced from the state.
The Mormons moved to Illinois and settled on undeveloped land along the Mississippi River known as Commerce. They renamed the area Nauvoo and started building a city. The Mormons received a liberal charter from the state that allowed them to have their own militia and courts. From here Smith continued to send out missionaries. Those sent to England were very successful, and soon immigrants from there as well as Canada and other areas of the United States arrived and helped establish what became the second largest city in Illinois. The Saints again started to build a temple. Smith continued to receive revelations.
One of Smith's revelations, plural marriage, caused special problems for the Mormons. Historians do not know when Smith received this revelation; there is some evidence that he married his first plural wife, Fanny Alger, in 1831. He did not write down the revelation until 1843, when he attempted to convince his first wife, Emma Hales Smith, of the principle. Although Smith and some of his closest followers practiced polygamy in Nauvoo, the church did not publicly announce the doctrine until 1852, after the Mormons moved to Utah. Some Mormons who knew of the doctrine opposed the practice and in June 1844 published a newspaper expressing their views of Smith as a fallen prophet. Using the powers granted by Nauvoo's charter, Smith destroyed not only the newspaper but also the press. The city courts released him, but the state arrested him for treason. As Smith, his brother Hyrum, and other church leaders were held in jail awaiting trial, a mob broke into the jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844.
Following the death of their leader, Brigham Young (1801-1877), the president of the Council of Twelve Apostles, gained the trust of most of Smith's followers. Some Mormons reported that when Young spoke to them he sounded like Smith. These people saw this as a heavenly manifestation that Young was to be the next leader. Eventually, he became church president. Young led the work to complete the temple in Nauvoo and continued to give the members the ordinances he learned from Smith.
Problems between the Mormons and the local residents continued, and by February 1846, the Mormons began to leave Illinois, heading first for Nebraska and then to Salt Lake Valley. Isolated from the rest of the nation, Brigham Young and the Mormons set out to establish "Zion in the tops of the mountains," following Smith's visions. He planned Salt Lake City and other communities using Smith's Plat of Zion, a grid system. He encouraged the Mormons to be self-sufficient and created an independent commonwealth. He sent settlers to southern Utah, where they attempted to raise cotton and manufacture iron so they would not have to depend on outsiders for these goods. He asked communities to live the "United Order," wherein people shared resources. Communities had varying success for several years, but eventually most communal attempts failed because most Mormons supported the American ideal of free enterprise. Eventually the church adopted free-enterprise policies. The Mormons completed the first temple in the area in St. George, Utah, in 1877. The Salt Lake Temple, which has become a symbol of Mormonism, took 40 years—from ground breaking to dedication—to complete. It was dedicated on April 6, 1893.
Young also announced for the first time publicly that the church endorsed plural marriage. In 1852 Apostle Orson Pratt delivered a discourse on the virtues of plural marriage. While church members now knew the church sanctioned polygamy, most of the Latter-day Saints did not practice it. The practice of polygamy varied by community, apparently based on how strongly local leaders encouraged it. Current research suggests that around 20 percent of the Mormons belonged to plural families.
Because of the Mormons' practice of polygamy and their political and economical isolation, many Americans questioned their loyalty to the nation. In 1857 the U.S. government sent an army to Utah with a federal appointee, Alfred Cumming of Georgia, to replace Brigham Young as governor of the territory. Although the groups resolved the problem peacefully and Cumming took office, the Mormons still contended with the U.S. government. In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act, the first legislation against polygamy, and continued to strengthen those laws for the next 25 years. The Edmunds Act (1882) was a series of amendments that strengthened the Morrill Act. It made cohabitation illegal; federal officials only had to prove that husband and wives were living together and not that multiple marriages had been performed for the law to have been broken. Polygamists were disenfranchised and could not hold political office. When the Edmunds Act did not control polygamy, Congress passed the Edmund-Tucker Act (1887), which abolished women's suffrage, required plural wives to testify against their husbands, and allowed the federal government to acquire all church property. The government began plans to confiscate the property, including the temples, in 1890. Church President Wilford Woodruff then issued a "Manifesto" stating that the church would no longer practice polygamy. In 1904 church President Joseph F. Smith presented a second manifesto that disciplined those who continued to practice polygamy or perform plural marriages.
As Mormons arrived in Utah's Great Basin, Brigham Young sent them throughout the West. Although some colonies were short lived, Mormon communities extended from southern Idaho to San Bernardino, California. During the years when the federal government arrested polygamists, Mormons also moved into northern Mexico and southern Alberta, Canada. Young and the presidents who followed him also sent missionaries throughout the United States and northern Europe. The church encouraged the new converts to "gather to Zion." Church-sponsored ships carried emigrants across the Atlantic. Once in the United States, converts traveled by rail as far as possible and then continued by wagon. Some groups who could not afford wagons pulled two-wheeled handcarts. The church established an endowment, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, to help the new arrivals.
The church encouraged the newcomers to assimilate as quickly as possible. They learned English and the Mormon way of life. Brigham Young proposed an alphabet that spelled English phonetically. Although it was never adopted, the alphabet demonstrated the church's attempt to assimilate newcomers. European immigrants were allowed at first to attend congregations speaking their native languages but were encouraged also to attend the congregation in which they lived, which usually spoke English. In 1903, when a disagreement developed over the celebration of a Swedish holiday, the First Presidency emphasized, "The counsel of the church to all Saints of foreign birth who come here is that they should learn to speak English when possible, adopt the manners and customs of the American people, fit themselves to become good and loyal citizens of this country, and by their good works show that they are true and faithful Latter-day Saints."
Additional factors worked for assimilation in Mormon society; those already in Utah understood the desire of the newcomers to be in Zion and felt a religious obligation to accept and love their brothers and sisters in the gospel. With all groups working together, European immigrants often married out of their cultural groups. So while Salt Lake City's foreign-born population during the 1880s ran as high as 80 percent, there were very few conflicts. Mormon immigrants assimilated into the mainstream of Mormonism's unique culture in one generation.
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Mormons remained concentrated in the inter-mountain west. The agricultural and mining depression of the 1920s and the nationwide depression of the 1930s forced some Mormons to leave the area looking for employment. During World War II, Utah's population increased as the government developed military bases and supported wartime industries. In the 1990s, while Mormons can be found throughout the United States, there is still a high concentration in the inter-mountain west.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHERS
During the nineteenth century, most Americans saw the Mormon church as an eccentric religion that practiced polygamy, voted as a bloc, and lived together. Following the issuing of the Manifesto, though, Mormons not only abandoned polygamy but also gave up many of their unique economic and political practices. In order for Utah to become a state, the federal government required the church to dissolve its political arm, the People's Party. Most Mormons became Republicans and Democrats like the rest of the nation. The church gave up its communal and cooperative efforts and embraced the capitalist economy.
As time passed Mormonism became, as historian Jan Shipps described, "the Reader's Digest church" because members seemed to fit the American ideal. While there are still some misgivings about the church's claims to be the only true church, most Americans now see Mormons as law abiding, peaceful people who embrace all aspects of American life. This image improved in 1978 when the church abandoned its policy that blacks could not hold its lay priesthood.
FUTURE OF THE MORMON CHURCH
One major problem facing the Mormon church is its growing international membership, both worldwide and in American ethnic communities. Church leaders face the dilemma of separating gospel values from the American secular traditions that they have interwoven into Mormon culture. Before the priesthood revelation, there was an informal rule in many missions that they should not recruit blacks. As a result, only a limited number of African Americans joined. After 1978, missionaries actively ministered among blacks, and increasing numbers of African Americans are joining the religion. Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans are also becoming members. Polynesian Americans who joined the church in the islands are immigrating to the United States and bringing extended family members. Not all of them are Mormons, but some join after they have arrived. The church has also continued its efforts, although on a lesser scale, to convert Native Americans.
While the northern European immigrants assimilated in one generation, these new members maintain their language and much of their cultural identity. The Mormon church has tried various approaches to help these members, including establishing separate congregations, integrating them into existing congregations without translation support, and facilitating partial integration—allowing them to "fuse" their culture with the Mormon lifestyle. In the 1960s, for example, church President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) actively organized Indian congregations (generally called Lamanite branches), and congregations of other ethnic groups, including a Chinese branch and a German-speaking ward in Salt Lake City, were formed. In the early 1970s, church leaders again questioned the utility of sponsoring separate branches and urged the integration of ethnic members into the church. However, before the end of the decade, a Basic Unit plan encouraged ethnic branches again. In practice the church's policy has vacillated because neither ethnic branches nor integrated wards have met the needs of all church members. Language and cultural barriers often weaken the ties of religion. Questions about how to resolve these issues still face the Mormon leadership.
In addition, church leaders uphold family values and gender roles that some Americans question. Many see the Mormon church as a conservative voice similar to the South's Bible Belt, and even some Mormons question these conservative stands. In 1993 and 1994 the church excommunicated intellectuals who questioned some basic tenets such as not ordaining women to the priesthood, the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and the role of church leaders.
Family and Community Dynamics
Mormons believe that through marriages performed in the temple, families are sealed for eternity. While most American Mormon families live with just the nuclear family, they value the extended family, living and dead. They feel that the temple "saving ordinances" such as baptism, a special "endowment" session, and marriages are also essential for family members who have died. Since these ordinances can only be performed on earth, living Mormons perform them as proxies for deceased relatives. To facilitate this, church leaders encourage Mormons to research their genealogies and collect the names of their deceased relatives.
The LDS church has emphasized family worship, including family scripture reading and weekly family meetings (now called family home evenings) for decades. The practice of family gatherings started in the Granite Stake in the Salt Lake Valley in 1909. Church leaders instructed families to set aside time to learn the gospel, participate in activities, sing songs, read the scriptures together, play games, and enjoy refreshments. Six years later in 1915, the First Presidency of the church announced its official endorsement of the church program. They asked "presidents of stakes and bishops throughout the church [to] set aside one evening each month for a "Home Evening" where "fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord." The church formalized the program in 1965 as the "family home evening" program. General church leaders encouraged local leaders to set aside Monday for the weekly meeting, prohibited ward or stake meetings that night, and provided lesson and activity manuals to assist families in their time together.
Mormons also encourage daily family prayer. In a survey of Utah adults by sociologist Stan Albrecht, 42 percent of lifetime Mormons reported having "daily" family prayer, with another 27 percent specifying "often." The comparable figures for converts were 45 percent and 23 percent respectively. While the number of those answering "never" or "only on special occasions" were higher (31 percent for lifetime members and 32 percent for converts), Utah Mormons prayed as families more often than Utah Catholics and Protestants, who collectively reported that 16 percent had daily family prayer, 13 percent less frequently, and 71 percent "never" or "only for special occasions."
Church leaders encourage Mormons to be self-sufficient. Since 1930, the church has operated its own welfare system to help members in need. Leaders ask members to fast once a month and donate the money they would have spent on those meals to help the needy. However, leaders also encourage members to use their own resources and seek their extended families' assistance before coming to the church for aid. To help in times of emergency, leaders ask members to maintain a year's supply of food and other necessities. During the 1930s, the church claimed that it could support its own members, but studies showed that members depended on the federal programs to a greater extent than other Americans. Church members continue to use federal and church programs, but the goal of self-reliance endures.
Church policy discourages teenagers from dating until they are 16 years old. Leaders also encourage no serious dating until after young men serve a two-year full-time mission when they are 19. Leaders stress that young people should marry other Mormons within their own racial group. The 1978 issue of the Church News that announced the change in policy toward blacks holding the priesthood included an article restating that the church still discouraged interracial marriages. It pointed out that marriage is always difficult and even more so when the partners come from different backgrounds. While the topic is not discussed as much in the general church, single Mormons from ethnic groups are frequently confused by the church's counsel to marry within the church and to marry someone from their ethnic groups when they do not find potential marriage partners who are Mormons and who belong to their cultural backgrounds.
The church teaches that sexual intercourse outside marriage is a sin. As a result, Mormon women marry at slightly younger ages than other Americans, while men marry at about the same age as the national average. Most Mormons marry rather than cohabit. As divorce has become more acceptable in the United States, more Mormons are separating. Utah has a higher divorce rate than the national average. Some studies show Mormons are more likely to separate in the first five years and less likely to divorce after five years of marriage.
Mormons believe all people existed as spirits before they were born and that to progress they needed to come to this earth to receive a body and to be tested. Many believe that the spirits on the other side need to be provided bodies. For that reason, the church discourages birth control and suggests that Mormons have large families; Latter-day Saints have families larger than the U.S. average. Mormon church leaders also speak against abortion. They view ending a pregnancy as "one of the most... sinful practices of this day." The only allowable exceptions are where "incest or rape was involved, or where competent medical authorities certify that the life of the mother is in jeopardy, or that a severely defective fetus cannot survive birth."
Mormons value children and provide training for them in the home and in the church. Traditional Mormon gender roles have changed along with overall American values as society has evolved in the twentieth century. But there are still differences in the training of boys and girls. Boys receive the priesthood when they are 12 years old and progress through priesthood offices. Church leaders ask all young men to serve a two-year mission when they are 19 years old. They receive the temple endowment before leaving on their missions. Girls, however, do not have the same advancement. They are allowed but not encouraged to go on missions, and they do not go until they are 21. Young women who serve missions receive the temple ordinances before they leave. Most women attend the temple for the first time just before their marriages. In marriage, a woman is sealed to her husband, and the church teaches that the man, the priesthood holder, is the head of the home; leaders discourage women from working outside the home. While many women work, studies show that women in Utah are more likely to work part time and many Mormon Utah women stay at home.
Despite rather conservative family status for women, however, Utah was the second state (after Wyoming) to give women the right to vote. Although Congress took suffrage away with the Edmunds-Tucker Act, some women continued to campaign for suffrage and were active in the national suffrage movements. The Utah State Constitution gave women back the vote in 1896. Some women, especially those involved in suffrage, became active in political parties. Historically Mormon women have been involved in community health, social welfare, and adoption programs; the best known of these is the Relief Society.
Mormons place a high value on education. Joseph Smith established a School of the Prophets and stressed the importance of learning, and Mormon scripture encourages members to "seek learning even by study and also by faith." Once the Mormons arrived in Utah, they established and sponsored the first schools on all levels in the state. Formal statehood brought public education, and gradually the church closed or transferred to the state most of its high schools (or academies). Weber State University in Ogden, Utah; Snow College in Ephraim, Utah; and Dixie College in St. George, Utah, are examples of state-sponsored institutions that were first established as Mormon academies. The church did not abandon all of its educational facilities, however. It still sponsors Brigham Young University, a four-year college with a large campus in Provo, Utah, as well as a smaller campus in Laie, Hawaii. It also operates a two-year junior college in Rexburg, Idaho, LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, and high schools and smaller colleges throughout the world in areas with limited public education.
With the closing of its academies, the church feared the loss of religious instruction. To provide the spiritual training other than that provided at Sunday activities, the church established seminaries at high schools and institutes at universities. The first seminary was established at Granite High School in Salt Lake City in 1912; the first institute was created at the University of Idaho in Moscow in 1926.
The Mormons' emphasis on education has led to an educated Mormon populace in the United States. In 1984 sociologists Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton found that over half Mormon men (53.5 percent) had some post high school education as compared to 36.7 percent of American men; 44.3 percent of Mormon women had similar training, contrasting with only 27.7 percent of American women overall.
For the most part, American Mormons observe only the national holidays that other Americans celebrate. The exception is July 24, Pioneer Day, in honor of the day that Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. This date is a state holiday in Utah, and residents celebrate with parades and fireworks. With the emphasis Mormons place on their history, members throughout the United States celebrate Pioneer Day on a smaller scale.
Mormons consider the Word of Wisdom, a revelation received by Joseph Smith, to be a commandment from God. According to Mormon tradition, in 1833 Emma Smith questioned male church leaders using chewing tobacco and spitting in her home. As a result, Joseph Smith asked the Lord for guidance and received Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It cautioned against "wine and strong drinks," tobacco, and "hot drinks." It also said meat should be "used sparingly" and urged the use of grains, especially "wheat for man," and herbs. When the revelation was first received, the church considered it only advice; violation did not restrict church membership. During the 1890s, though, church leaders started emphasizing the Word of Wisdom more. They led the prohibition fight in Utah and discouraged the use of alcoholic drinks. In 1921 church president Heber J. Grant made obeying the Word of Wisdom a requirement to enter the temple. The church interpreted the revelation to forbid coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol, but it does not stress other elements of the teaching, including guidelines about the use of meat and grains.
Strict adherence to the Word of Wisdom has led to greater health among Mormons. Studies have found that Mormons in Utah have fewer cases of diseases, especially cancers, and suggest this may be because they do not use tobacco or alcohol. One study declared that Mormons showed that one-third of the cancers in the United States could be prevented by avoiding these substances. Mormons also helped in cancer research through their high birth rate and the keeping of genealogical records. University of Utah professors have encoded this information and identified high-risk cancer patients. In addition, information provided by the Mormons helped lead to the identification of a gene that frequently occurs in colon cancer patients.
Nineteenth-century Mormon health practices and problems were similar to those of other Americans at the time. Mormons suffered a high rate of infant morality and death from infectious diseases. Their initial mistrust of the medical profession was also common. Some early Mormons believed in herbal treatments. Many practiced faith healing. Leaders encouraged members to depend more on the power of God than on doctors. In the church's early days, men and women gave blessings as a way of healing. Usually women blessed other women at the time of childbirth. Now the church only authorizes men holding the priesthood to give blessings.
Mormon health practices have changed over the years. Some modifications developed in response to changes in American views. After the Mormons moved to Utah, Brigham Young encouraged members to go to doctors for medical treatment. His suggestion slightly preceded the general American shift to greater support of the medical profession. Young asked second-generation Mormons to return to the East to study medicine, and men and women responded. While leaders still stressed faith healing, they also encouraged members to seek the assistance of secular medicine.
Around the turn of the century, Mormons participated in public health programs that were popular throughout the United States. Church leaders encouraged voluntary vaccination programs and supported quarantines. The women's organization, the Relief Society, sponsored maternal and child health programs. It also held milk clinics and organized "Swat the Fly" campaigns. The women worked closely with the state government to implement the services Congress provided through the 1920s Sheppherd-Towner Act. Under this law, the stake Relief Society in Cottonwood opened a maternity hospital and other church groups provided layettes and promoted pregnancy and well-baby care.
The Mormon church also sponsored hospitals in Utah to provide assistance to the sick. The Relief Society started the Deseret Hospital in 1882. When that hospital closed 10 years later, members worked to raise money for the W. H. Grover Latter-day Saint Hospital that opened in 1905. The Mormon church owned and operated hospitals in Utah and Idaho until the 1980s, when the leaders turned these hospitals over to a newly created private institution, the Intermountain Health Corporation.
By the end of the twentieth century, Mormons depended as much on doctors as on other members. While blessings at the time of illness continue, leaders recommend that members seek medical advice. Physician and historian Lester Bush concludes, "With regard to most aspects of medical practice, Mormons are indeed no longer a `peculiar people "' (Health and Medicine Among the Mormons: Science, Sense, and Scripture, 1993). There are some minor differences though. Early in the century the Utah state legislature voted against compulsory vaccinations. Later that decision was reversed, but for years Utah had higher cases of smallpox than the rest of the nation because vaccinations were not required. Utah has also resisted water fluoridation. In 1972 the First Presidency asked members to study the issue and make their own decision, but they did not express support. As a result, much of Utah's water is not fluoridated, and children have more cavities.
Though Mormons are found throughout the world, the church is thoroughly American. That is true especially of its leadership. While the church has appointed local leaders that represent its worldwide membership, the most influential, the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve, are all white American males. When a president dies, the senior member of the Council of Twelve replaces him, so future church leaders will come from this group. The two Quorums of Seventies are also General Authorities in the church. The First Quorum is appointed for life and in 1993 included 35 men. Only eight of its members are not from the United States. The Second Quorum is appointed for a five-year term. Of 43 men in 1993, only 14 are not Americans. Since nearly all the General Authorities are Americans, the body tends to represent that perspective.
Mormons attend geographically structured congregations known as wards. In Utah a ward might include only a few blocks; in other areas, wards might encompass an entire middle-sized or metropolitan city. In Utah boundaries frequently split neighborhoods, and there is very little contact outside assigned wards. Wards support religious and social life by sponsoring athletic events, parties, and other activities for all age groups. Five to six wards form a unit known as a stake, which is similar to a diocese.
The importance of "going to church" has changed for Mormons over time. Historian Jan Shipps described the changes in Mormon religious practice: "Hypothetical Saints [travelling to the nineteenth century] ... in a time machine would have been astonished to find so few Saints at sacrament meeting because the twentieth century sacrament meeting is a visible worship sign, whereas in the pioneer era more expressive worship signs were irrigation canals or neatly built or nicely decorated houses or good crops of sugar beets. More significant, living in the nineteenth century was the sign of citizenship in God's elect nation" (Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, 1985). As the Mormons gave up such distinctive practices as polygamy and the United Orders, the responsibility of "boundary maintenance" shifted from the church to the individual. According to Shipps, "The LDS dietary, behavior, and dress codes" are now important boundary markers, while correspondingly, "worship activity ... seems almost mandatory."
The importance of attending worship services is reflected in contemporary Mormon church statistics. For example, a 1980-1981 study shows that 68 percent of lifetime Mormons in Utah attend church on a weekly basis. Converts are even more devout: 74 percent attend weekly. Sociologist Armand Mauss' study of general U.S. surveys found that 58 percent of Mormons go to church weekly compared to only 29 percent of other Americans. On Sundays Mormons attend a three-hour block of meetings that includes a general worship service—known as the sacrament meeting—for everyone. Adults and teenagers attend Sunday School classes. Men and women then split; women attend Relief Society and men attend priesthood meeting. Teenage girls attend Young Women, and teenage boys attend priesthood classes. Children between the ages of three and twelve go to Primary. A nursery serves those between eighteen months and three years of age. Before 1981, Mormons scattered meetings throughout the week. Partly because of the gasoline shortage of the late 1970s, these meetings were consolidated into today's Sunday block. The church leaders hoped this would not only cut down travel time, but allow families more time to be together.
Mormons also develop a sense of community by working together in the wards. The only paid full-time clergy in the church are the General Authorities. Ward and stake leaders accept positions to serve as bishop (similar to a pastor or priest), stake president (similar to a bishop in the Catholic church), and staff for other church organizations. Catholic sociologist Thomas F. O'Dea in his extensive study of the Mormons observed that the church's lay ministry means "the church has provided a job for everyone to do and, perhaps more important, has provided a formal context in which it is to be done. The result is a wide distribution of activity, responsibility, and prestige" (The Mormons, 1957). O'Dea explained lay structure has historical roots. Mormonism came into being "when lay responsibility in church government was widespread and developed in circumstances that demanded lay participation for the survival of the group and the carrying-out of the program.... If western conditions caused older and established churches to make use of laymen, a new and struggling religious movement had all the more reason to do so, and no inhibiting traditions." Mormonism's already expansive definition of priesthood continued to broaden, becoming universal for men after 1978.
Early Mormon meeting houses and temples were works of art. The architecture was often similar to Gothic chapels and represented the feeling that the Saints were giving the best to the Lord. The Salt Lake Temple, often seen as the symbol of Mormonism, is a classic example; but the church has had a mixed record of preserving these historic treasures. In the late 1960s local residents along with state citizens fought to prevent the church from tearing down the Heber City, Utah, tabernacle that had served as a meeting place for the Wasatch Stake. Just a few years later similar groups were unable to preserve the Coalville, Utah, tabernacle. In the late 1970s the church preserved the outside of the Logan Temple but gutted the interior. It maintained the original murals in the Salt Lake and Manti temples. In 1994 the church announced plans to convert the tabernacle in Vernal, Utah, into a temple.
Mormon temples provide a special worship atmosphere for members; meeting houses are more practical. They include a chapel for worship, a cultural hall for sports and theater, classrooms, a kitchen, and a library. In the early days the buildings were still decorative; now there is more emphasis on utilitarianism. The church provides standard architectural plans that can be adapted for individual needs. New temples are built to serve functional needs. A good contrast that shows the changes is to compare the Salt Lake Temple with its granite towers and symbolism with the simple concrete design of the Provo, Utah, and Ogden, Utah, temples.
Employment and Economic Traditions
Mormons have a variety of occupations. Sociologist Wade Dewey Roof and theologian William McKinney examined religious "streams" in the "circulation of the saints." The "upward movement" from one social and economic class to another is one of these streams. They concluded that the Mormon church moved from the bottom of the lowest scale in the 1940s, based on education, family income, occupational prestige, and perceived social class, to the highest in the middle category by the 1980s.
Politics and Government
Since the breakup of the People's Party, the Mormon church leaders claim to speak out only on political issues that they consider to be of moral concern. In 1968 the church opposed the sale of liquor by the drink, supported Sunday closing laws, and favored right-to-work laws. The Mormon church also took a stand opposing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s. While LDS women were split, the church's Relief Society came out against the amendment and in October 1976 a First Presidency statement opposed the ERA. The church's stand influenced the vote in Utah, Florida, Virginia, and Illinois and affected states such as Idaho that attempted to reverse their ratification of the amendment.
Besides opposing the ERA, Mormons attended state activities for the International Women's Year. Mormons tended to vote as a bloc against what they saw as liberal proposals. The Mormon church also made national news when an outspoken supporter of the ERA, Sonia Johnson, was excommunicated from the Mormon church. The Mormon Women's Forum, a group of Mormon feminists seeking to reform the church, looks at what its members see as the suppressive influence of the church on Mormon women and examines such issues as the ordination of women to the priesthood.
The First Presidency also spoke out against the location of the MX missile system in Utah and Nevada in 1981. The church issued a statement declaring, "Our fathers came to this western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace to the peoples of the earth." It continued, "It is ironic, and a denial of the very essentials of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization." The federal government then suggested moving the project to Wyoming and later abandoned the project altogether.
The Mormon church also spoke out on other issues. Leaders came out strongly against abortion. Utah passed one of the most pro-life legislation packages in the United States in 1991. In 1992 the LDS church opposed a pari-mutuel betting proposal in the state of Utah; several general authorities mentioned this subject in the October General Conference just before the election. The measure was defeated.
Other than speaking out on issues and encouraging members to vote and be involved in the political process, Mormon leaders do not officially support any political party. Almost half of the American Mormon population are Republicans. The rest are independents, Democrats, and small political party members. Mormons tend to be conservative no matter which political party they belong to.
One of Joseph Smith's Articles of Faith, a 13-statement creed of belief, says that Mormons believe in being "subject" to governments and "honoring" the laws of the land. Church leaders asked members to participate in the armed forces of their countries, even when that meant that Mormons fought against each other. During World War II and the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, Mormon leaders restricted the missionary efforts and discouraged draft dodgers and conscientious objectors. Mormons have changed the way that they view wars. In the early church, Latter-day Saints looked for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. They viewed the Civil War as the beginning of the "wars and rumors of wars" that were prophesied would proceed the millennium. Mormons saw the Spanish American War that came immediately after Utah received statehood as a chance to prove their loyalty to America. Like other Americans, Mormons saw World War I as a "just war" to end all wars. World War II was seen as a necessary battle to save democracy and remove dictators.
Individual and Group Contributions
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich won the Pultizer Prize for nonfiction for her book A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. Ulrich is a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. Mormons also publish scholarly journals that deal with various aspects of LDS life. The first journal addressed to the intellectual community was Brigham Young University Studies (1959). In 1966 scholars formed Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, an independent voice, despite disapproval from many in the church's hierarchy. Other autonomous periodicals followed including the Journal of Mormon History (1974), Exponent II (1974), and Sunstone (1975). The Mormon History Association publishes the Journal of Mormon History. The rest are published by small groups devoted to the need for an independent organ for Mormon scholars.
ART AND MUSIC
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) encouraged Mormons to develop an art form of their own. Mormons have attempted to do this throughout the church's history. They formed musical groups, especially bands, during the nineteenth century. They also participated in choral singing on a local and church-wide basis. Several Mormon regional choirs are very successful. The best-known choir is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that presents a weekly program on CBS Radio and Television. Equally well-known is the Osmond family, which has had many different successful music groups, whether it was the Osmond Brothers, or brother and sister act Donny and Marie. Mormons have also encouraged plays and theatrical productions. In 1861 the church built the Salt Lake Theater that was the center of drama in the Rocky Mountain West for years. Dramas have continued on a local and churchwide basis over the years. The church also sponsors pageants depicting the Mormon past at historic sites throughout the United States. The most noted is the Hill Cumorah Pageant near Palmyra, New York, which enacts the history of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's early life.
Mormons have used motion pictures as missionary and teaching tools. One of the first was Man's Search for Happiness, produced for the 1967 World's Fair in New York City. Since then, the church has produced television specials and other motion pictures. In 1993, for example, the church started showing Legacy, a dramatic presentation of early Mormon history, in the restored Hotel Utah, now known as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Mormon artists have used their talents to express church messages. During the 1880s and 1890s, Mormon painters went as missionaries to Paris to learn the impressionist art. They returned to paint murals for the Salt Lake Temple. Other Mormon painters contributed stained glass windows and other paintings to chapels. As the church has grown worldwide, artists from many countries have adapted their native art forms to portray Mormon themes. The church-owned Museum of Church History and Art sponsors art competitions to help collect and display the art produced from around the world. Brigham Young University has a large collection of painting and sculpture in its Museum of Art.
Amy Brown Lyman (1872-1959) served on the Relief Society general board and as president of that organization from 1940 to 1944. Lyman was active in church and state welfare programs. James O. Mason (1930– ) worked in the LDS church welfare services and then in the Utah Department of Health. In 1989 he was appointed head of the U.S. Public Health Service. He retired from the federal government in 1992 and was called to be a member of the Second Quorum of Seventy in the LDS church. Eliza R. Snow (1804-1887) served as secretary of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, Illinois, and president in Utah. Snow wrote poems; some are LDS hymns. She was a plural wife of Joseph Smith, and after Smith's death, she became a plural wife of Brigham Young. Emmaline Blanche Wells (1828-1921) was editor of the Women's Exponent for nearly four decades and general president of the Relief Society for over a decade. Active in women's suffrage, she was a friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Since the early church, Mormons have published newspapers and magazines. Some important U.S. publications include the Evening and Morning Star (Independence, Missouri, 1832-1833; Kirtland, Ohio, 1833-1834), the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-1946); and the Frontier Guardian (Kanesville, Iowa, 1849-1852). Once in Utah the Mormons started a newspaper, the Desert News (1850-) that is ongoing. Women established a quasi-Mormon women's paper, the Woman's Exponent (1872-1914). It was replaced by an official magazine, the Relief Society Magazine (1914-1970). The church also sponsored a Sunday School magazine, the Juvenile Instructor, a young women's magazine, and the Children's Friend. The general church magazine was the Improvement Era (1897-1970). In 1970 the church started three new magazines, the Ensign for adults, the New Era for teenagers, and the Friend for children.
Mormons have also written novels, stories, and poems about the LDS experience. Vardis Fisher (1895-1968) wrote from a Mormon background. Others with Latter-day Saint backgrounds who wrote about Mormon themes include Samuel Taylor (1906– ), Virginia Sorsensen (1912-1992), and Maurine Whipple (1904-1993). Another contemporary Mormon author is Levi Peterson (1933– ), who writes novels (Backslider ) and short stories (Canyons of Grace ). Mormon authors formed the Association of Mormon Letters to promote literary study.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mormons have also been involved in technological inventions, although most of these innovations have had little to do with their Mormon past. One exception is the development of irrigation. The community-minded Mormons worked out a system to share water in the arid west. They developed irrigation companies and ways to share the limited water resources. Later other Mormons improved these methods and shared them throughout the United States and the world. John A. Widstoe (1872-1952) was among the first Mormons who went east in the 1890s to study science at secular universities. Widstoe directed the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and was a professor of chemistry at the Utah State Agricultural College. He developed dry farming and irrigation methods. Henry Eyring (1901-1981), a chemist, developed the absolute rate theory of chemical reactions and received the National Medal of Science. He served as president of several leading scientific organizations. Harvey Fletcher (1884-1981), a physicist, worked for Bell Labs and helped develop stereo-phonic reproduction. James Chipman Fletcher (1919-1992) was the director of NASA from 1971 to 1977. He was asked to return to that position after the Challenger disaster and remained from 1986 to 1989.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Terrell H. Bell (1921– ) was the secretary of education in the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) served as president of the LDS church. Benson also served as secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was active in farm organizations. David M. Kennedy (1925– ), a banker, was the secretary of the treasury under president Richard Nixon from 1969-1971, an ambassador-at-large from 1971-1973, and the ambassador to NATO from 1972-1973. He later became an ambassador-at-large for the LDS church. Rex Lee (1935-) was U.S. solicitor general. In 1989 he has became president of Brigham Young University. George Romney (1912– ) was president and general manager of American Motors (1954-1962), governor of the state of Michigan (1963-1967), and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. Stewart L. Udall (1920-) served as secretary of the interior in the 1960s under president John F. Kennedy.
Many Mormons have achieved fame in athletics. These include professional baseball players such as Dale Murphy, basketball players such as Danny Ainge, football players such as Steve Young, and golfers such as Johnny Miller. Mormons have also excelled in amateur sports, including athletes Henry Marsh, Doug Padilla, Ed Eyestone, and Jay Silvester in track and field.
Monthly publication of the Affirmation/Gay and Lesbian Mormons. Promotes understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full, equal, and worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and society. Provides a forum for dialogue between members and church leaders and examines the consistency of homosexual behavior and the Gospel. Studies ways of reconciling sexual orientation with traditional Mormon beliefs.
Contact: James Kent, Editor.
Address: P.O. Box 46022, Los Angeles, California 90046.
Telephone: (213) 255-7251.
A weekly publication that includes the activities of Mormons worldwide. It is published as an insert in the Mormon-owned Deseret News.
Contact: Dell Van Orden, Editor.
Address: 40 E. South Temple, P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130.
Telephone: (800) 453-3876; or (801) 534-1515.
Fax: (801) 578-3338.
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
Quarterly scholarly journal examining the relevance of religion to secular life and expressing Mormon culture.
Contact: Martha Bradley, Co-Editor.
Address: P.O. Box 658, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110-0658.
Telephone: (801) 363-9988.
A monthly magazine published by the Mormon church for its adult English-speaking members. It includes a message from the First Presidency and articles concerning LDS life and members. A section includes "News of the Church."
Contact: Jay M. Todd, Managing Editor.
Address: 50 East North Temple, 23rd Floor, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
Telephone: (800) 453-3860; or (801) 240-2950.
Fax: (801) 240-5997.
Quarterly newspaper for Mormon women.
Contact: Susan L. Paxman, Editor. Address: P.O. Box 37, Arlington, Massachusetts 02174.
Telephone: (617) 862-1928.
Fax: (617) 868-3464.
An LDS church magazine for children. Its stories and articles provide information for youth ages three to 12.
Contact: Vivian Paulsen, Editor.
Address: 50 East North Temple, 23rd Floor, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
A Mormon publication for teenagers and young adults. Its articles focus on the concerns of young people.
Contact: Richard M. Romney, Editor.
Address: 50 East North Temple, 23rd Floor, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
Sunstone: Mormon Experience, Scholarship, Issues, and Art.
Magazine published by Sunstone Foundation, which also sponsors symposiums in the United States. (In 1992 the Mormon church's First Presidency and Council of Twelve issued a statement cautioning against Mormons participating in symposiums, and many felt this referred to Sunstone.)
Contact: Elbert Peck, Editor.
Address: 343 North 300 West, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84103-1215.
Telephone: (801) 355-5926.
Fax: (801) 355-4043.
This People: Exploring LDS Issues and Personalities.
Quarterly magazine for members of the LDS church.
Contact: Jim Bell, Editor.
Address: Utah Alliance Publishing, P.O. Box 50748, Provo, Utah 84605.
Telephone: (801) 375-1700. Fax: (801) 375-1703.
Bonneville LDS Radio Network.
The media corporation owned by the LDS church; provides a 24-hour radio service that is sent by satellite to church members who own satellite receivers. It is also repeated by a few stations across the nation as an FM sideband service.
Contact: Richard Linford.
Address: P.O. Box 1160, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110-1160. Telephone: (801) 575-7505.
Bonneville International also operates radio stations throughout the United States: KIDR-AM (740) in Phoenix, Arizona; KIRO-AM (710) and KWMX-FM (101) in Seattle, Washington; KOITFM (96.5) and KOIT-AM (1260) in San Francisco, California; KZLA-FM (93.9) and KBIG-FM (104.3) in Los Angeles, California; KSL-AM (1160) in Salt Lake City, Utah; KHTC-FM (96.9) and KIDR-AM (740) in Phoenix, Arizona; KMBZAM (980) in Westwood, Kansas; KLDE-FM (94.5) in Houston, Texas; KZPS-FM (92.5) and KAAMAM (1310) in Dallas, Texas; WDBZ-FM (105.1) in New York City; WGMS-AM (103.5) in Washington, D.C.; and WLUP-FM (97.9) and WNND-FM (100.3) in Chicago, Illinois. These are commercial stations. At least one station in each operating area carries the CBS broadcast "Music and the Spoken Word," and some carry one or more sessions of the LDS General Conference.
LDS Public Communications.
Produces a weekly "News of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and other public affairs programs that are packaged and sent to radio stations.
Contact: Gerry Pond, Producer.
Address: LDS Church Headquarters, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
TELEVISION, BROADCAST, AND CABLE SERVICES
Bonneville International Corporation.
Operates two television stations, KIRO-TV, Channel 7 in Seattle, Washington, and KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, Utah. These operate as commercial stations and do not regularly carry unique Mormon programming. The LDS church Public Communications airs shows on the cable system religious station VISIONS.
Address: LDS Church Headquarters, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
Organizations and Associations
Affirmation/Gay and Lesbian Mormons.
Members of the Mormon church; friends, relatives, and interested individuals whose purpose is to promote understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full, equal, and worthy members of the church and society. Studies ways of reconciling sexual orientation with traditional Mormon beliefs.
Contact: Tianna Owens, Executive Director.
Address: P.O. Box 46022, Los Angeles, California 90046.
Telephone: (213) 255-7251.
Mormon History Association.
Promotes the study of the Mormon past. It publishes the Journal of Mormon History, a biannual scholarly publication.
Contact: Craig and Suzanne Foster, Executive Secretaries.
Address: 2470 North 1000 West, Layton, Utah.
Telephone: (801) 773-4620.
Fax: (801) 779-1348.
Mormon Social Science Association.
Encourages the study of Mormon life.
Contact: Lynn Payne, Secretary-Treasurer.
Address: Sociology Department, A 800 SWKT, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.
Young Women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (YW).
Founded in 1869. Description: Girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Seeks to strengthen the spiritual life of young women through Christian values and experiences. Reinforces the values of faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, and integrity. Works to develop leadership attributes in young women through service in the community. Bestows Young Womanhood Medallion for special achievement.
Contact: Margaret D. Nadauld, President.
Address: 76 North Main, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
Telephone: (801) 240-2141. Fax: (801) 240-5458.
Museums and Research Centers
Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
Integral unit of Brigham Young University. History, anthropology, economic development, literature, folklore, social development, politics, and other activities relating to western development, including studies on Mormon history.
Contact: Dr. Edward A. Geary, Director.
Address: 5042 Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah 84602.
Telephone: (801) 378-4048.
Fax: (801) 378-6708.
Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History.
Integral unit of Brigham Young University. History of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its followers (Mormons).
Contact: Dr. Ronald K. Esplin, Director.
Address: 127 Knight Mangum Building, Provo, Utah 84602.
Telephone: (801) 378-4023.
Fax: (801) 378-4049.
Sources for Additional Study
Alexander, Thomas G. Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.
Allen, James B., and Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints, second edition. Salt Lake City: Deseret Books, 1992.
Arrington, Leonard J., and Davis Bitton. The Mormon Experience. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
Bush, Lester E. Health and Medicine Among the Mormons: Science, Sense, and Scripture. New York: Crossroads, 1993.
Cornwall, Marie, Tim B. Heaton, and Lawrence A. Young. Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Hansen, Klaus J. Mormonism and the American Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Hill, Marvin S. Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989.
Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan, 1992.
Mauss, Armand L. The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Shipps, Jan. Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985.
"Mormons." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
"Mormons." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in 1830. By the year 2000, there were more than 11 million church members, who are commonly referred to as Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormons. International expansion of the church has been significant since 1960 when 90 percent of the membership lived in the United States. In 1999, only 12 percent of Latter-day Saints lived in Utah, the world headquarters of the church; 52 percent of members lived outside the United States in more than 160 countries. South America, Central America, and Mexico contain more than 60 percent of new church members; 9 percent also come from Asian countries (Heaton 1992). In 2000, the church reached an historic milestone of having more non-English-speaking than English-speaking members (Todd 2000).
Mormon Beliefs and Practices
One of the distinctive aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the centrality of marriage and the family in its theological doctrine. The church teaches that all humankind are brother and sister—literally spiritual offspring of heavenly parents—and that life on earth ideally follows this heavenly pre-earth pattern. One of the church's primary purposes is to teach family ideals and preserve traditional family relationships through gospel ordinances, including eternal marriage. "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. . . . Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ" (The Family 1995, p.102).
Eternal marriage. Most prominent among Mormon family-centered beliefs is the conviction that the family unit can be eternal. Eternal marriage is necessary to fulfill one's highest spiritual potential as a son or daughter of God. To achieve this goal, couples must have their wedding performed in a Latter-day Saint temple (or have their marriage solemnized in a temple, if they were previously married elsewhere). In temples, authorized temple workers join couples in matrimony "for time and all eternity" rather than "till death do us part." This highest of all temple rites, temple sealing, symbolizes that the husband and wife become bound to each other in a union that even death cannot dissolve. If couples remain true to their spiritual covenants, they are promised that their marriage can last throughout eternity.
Those who never married during their lives or who never had their marriage solemnized in a temple may still have an eternal marriage. Although Jesus taught that individuals do not marry in the next life, the Mormon doctrine holds that he has provided a way for the living to do this work vicariously for the deceased. The Church is known for its vast genealogical resources that help Latter-day Saint members identify ancestors for whom essential ordinances (like baptism or the temple sealing) were never performed. Members stand as temple proxies for those who did not receive the ordinances during life. This work for the dead is a critical aspect of salvation: "For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 128:15). The Mormon belief is that God provides opportunities for all of his children, alive and deceased, to receive these essential ordinances.
Premarital preparation. Latter-day Saint youth are encouraged to prepare for future temple sealing. They are counseled to avoid dating before the age of sixteen. They are taught to reserve sex for marriage because premarital and extramarital sex is a violation of the sacred use of one's sexuality. Latter-day Saint youth have lower rates of premarital sex than do their peers who are not Latter-day Saints (Heaton, Goodman, and Holman 1994). LDS youth are also cautioned against activities that may negatively affect their desire and spiritual worthiness to serve as missionaries when they reach young adulthood.
For a period of eighteen to twenty-four months, young men and women in their late teens and early twenties postpone their personal interests (including dating) to devote their time entirely to gospel teaching. The experience of missionary service can be life-altering, giving young people a more solid foundation upon which to build a successful marriage and family (Parry 1994). Allen W. Litchfield, Darwin L. Thomas, and Bing Dao Li (1997) found that private religious behavior, rather than public practice, is the best predictor of future religious plans. LDS missions were found to facilitate internalization of religious values.
Gender roles and parenthood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that gender roles of men and women are distinct but equal. Fathers preside as the providers and protectors of their families. Mothers are the primary caregivers to nurture children with love, sensitivity, and spirituality. Men are taught that their highest calling is their role as a father. Fathers bless, heal, comfort, and guide their family members. Likewise, nothing in a woman's life is to take higher priority than family responsibilities.
Though separate, male and female gender roles complement one another. Spouses are encouraged to help one another as equals. Similarly, raising children is a sacred stewardship, a privilege that draws couples nearer to God and brings life's greatest blessings and responsibilities. The church does not give specific direction to couples about the number and spacing of children, including contraceptive use in family planning. The church also does not teach that sexual intimacy in marriage is only for procreation. Couples are taught that they should welcome children into their family circle. As a result, the Latter-day Saints are known as a childbearing people, with higher fertility rates than couples who are not Latter-day Saints (Heaton 1986). In cross-national comparisons on fertility, Tim B. Heaton (1989) found that although pronatalism is a persistent theme in Mormonism, "the expression of that theme is different in each country" (p. 410).
Myths about Mormon Beliefs and Practices
Since many of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about marriage and family are unique, misunderstanding and confusion about Mormon beliefs and practices may arise. Some of the myths about the church include those of polygamy and subjugation of women.
Polygamy. One of the church's "most controversial and least understood" (Bachman and Esplin 1992, p. 1091) practices was the polygamous marriage of a man to more than one wife, which was practiced in the church as early as the 1840s. Mormons, like the ancient patriarchs of biblical times, practiced plural marriage in obedience to God. Church leaders strictly regulated plural marriage within its membership. It was not a license for illicit sexual relationships; only 20 to 25 percent of LDS adults practiced polygamy. "At its height, plural marriage probably involved only a third of the women reaching marriageable age" (Bachman and Esplin 1992, p. 1095).
Latter-day Saints believed that the practice of plural marriage was protected under the United States Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion. However, the United States Supreme Court in 1890 upheld the antipolygamy policies of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. Civil rights were denied to people living in polygamous unions; fines and imprisonment were imposed; Mormons were barred from public office and voting. The Edmunds-Tucker Act disincorporated the church and authorized confiscation of church properties. Seizure of Latter-day Saint temples was threatened. The church faced political and economic destruction (Davis 1992).
President Wilford Woodruff in the Manifesto of 1890 (Official Declaration 1) formally discontinued the church practice of polygamy. Members accepted discontinuance of the practice of plural marriage as the will of God. Since the early 1900s, those within the church who enter into polygamous marriages have been subject to excommunication.
Subjugation of women. One of the unique beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that neither gender can obtain the highest ordinances and spiritual blessings without the other. Husband and wife receive these highest temple ordinances "together and equally, or not at all" (Nelson 1999, p.38). Neither man nor woman can attain their full divine potential without the other. Linking the woman with the man in marriage is perceived by some as relegation of women to the private rather than the public sphere and is interpreted as patriarchal subjugation of women (Corn-wall 1994).
From the earliest days of the church, both women and men have participated in all church matters presented to the membership for vote (Smith and Thomas 1992). Although Utah women were enfranchised in 1870, the antipolygamy Edmonds-Tucker Act of 1887 disenfranchised all Utah women. It was believed that Utah women were oppressed by patriarchy and would vote as instructed by their husbands. Mormon women joined with eastern suffragists, such as Susan B. Anthony, to oppose the section of the antipolygamy legislation that repealed Utah women's suffrage. In 1896, Utah became the third state to join the Union with equal voting rights for women (Madsen 1992).
Marie Cornwall (1994) purports that there was more institutional responsibility and autonomy for women in early Mormonism. She suggests that the church's "hierarchical structure and emphasis on distinct gender roles restricts women's contribution, assigns them to a particular sphere, and adds to their silence and invisibility" (p. 262). Lawrence R. Iannaccone and Carrie A. Miles (1990) examined how the church responded to U.S. women's change in gender roles and conclude that "the Church has managed to accommodate change without appearing to abandon its ideals . . . [and to] exercise flexibility in practice while maintaining purity of doctrine" (p. 1245).
Although the stereotypic image of the Mormon woman is that of the "unquestioning and dutiful housewife," the reality is more complex. Not all LDS women fit the stereotype. Rather, they vary in political beliefs, party affiliations, and attitudes toward authority (Presley, Weaver, and Weaver 1986). LDS women differentially find ways to negotiate their identity and place in religious congregations and society. "To view the religious participation of LDS women in a static manner would fail to capture the rich diversity of the different ways in which they exercise agency at multiple levels, and in diverse ways over the course of their lives" (Beaman 2001, p. 84).
Although employment participation rates for LDS women have been found to be similar to the national average, research by Bruce A. Chadwick and H. Dean Garrett (1995) supports "the hypothesis that religiosity, as measured by beliefs and private worship, is moderately related to lower employment among LDS women" (p. 288). Employment by LDS women is also related to lower participation in religious activities. This should not be interpreted however to "mean that all religious women are housewives or that all employed women have lost their faith and left the church. . . . [Some women are able to] maintain their religiosity in spite of the time demands of full-time employment" (p. 291).
Strengthening LDS Families
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unapologetic in declaring its divine mandate to preserve what it views as the traditional family unit. The ideal family composition is believed to be a faithful husband and wife sealed eternally together with their children in the temple, who then each lovingly magnify their divinely appointed gender roles (Scott 2001). However, as church membership becomes increasingly international, family structure is becoming more diverse. For example, statistics show that the idealized family sealed in the temple describes only one in five LDS families in the United States and less than 5 percent of LDS families in Mexico (Heaton 1992). To nurture the ideal LDS family, the church doubled its number of operating Latter-day Saint temples worldwide from fifty temples in 1997 to one hundred temples in 2000. With the complexity and challenges of present-day reality, no family lives perfectly true to the ideal. Adaptations are required due to individual circumstances, such as divorce, disability, or death (The Family 1995).
Despite falling short of the ideal, research (Heaton, Goodman, and Holman 1994) finds that Mormons, compared to other U.S. families, are more likely to marry, less likely to divorce, less likely to have cohabited, and more disapproving of extramarital sex. Other comparisons, however, show similarities between Mormons and those of other religious traditions in marital interaction, time spent with children, evaluation of roles, disagreement, and conflict.
The church holds up the ideal, counseling its members to reach toward it through obedience to gospel principles (Scott 2001). The church, however, does not only teach principles; it provides support and resources to assist families to approach the ideal. This is consistent with cautions raised decades earlier by Darwin L. Thomas (1983) as he looked to the future of the Mormon family. He recommended that the church provide additional support and resources to families coping with the strain of increasing differences between Mormon beliefs and contemporary societal beliefs.
Latter-day Saints are taught to integrate gospel principles into everyday family life, through daily family prayer and scripture study. Families are encouraged to gather on Monday nights for family home evening to participate in spiritual and educational lessons, music, family activities, fun, planning, and councils to build family unity and to solve special challenges and needs. In addition to receiving regular instruction at church and in other meetings, Latter-day Saints receive monthly personal contacts from assigned home visitors offering teachings and support in fulfilling family duties. All age groups in the church are further supported through activities in their respective priesthood quorums and auxiliaries. Leaders counsel, assess special needs, and match Latter-day Saint members with resources that support family growth. Church resources supplement the self-reliant efforts of individuals and families to meet their own family needs. Families take care of themselves and share their resources in caring for others in need.
Promoting Family Well-Being Worldwide
The church not only supports Latter-day Saint families with its programs and activities, but it also promotes traditional family well-being worldwide. One of the church's initial family outreach efforts was its public service radio and television spots advocating for family solidarity. These continuing messages, entitled Homefront, began in 1971 and have helped establish the church worldwide as a pro-family proponent. The church's promotion of family well-being has become bolder, despite criticism and hostility by some individuals and groups. For example, O. Kendall White, Jr., (1986) identifies the Mormon belief that neither the man or woman is complete without the other as the ideology that places the church in opposition to modern feminist and gay social movements.
The church believes it has a God-given mandate to preserve the traditional family unit worldwide. Church President Gordon B. Hinckley defends the church's opposition to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage: "This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality. ...We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out" (1999, p. 52).
As responsible citizens, church members are encouraged to voluntarily join with other like-minded religious and secular groups in coalitions to advocate and defend the traditional family through donation of time, talent, and means. Church members have been key players in national and international efforts to promote traditional marriage and family. Such efforts include the Defense of Marriage Act legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 and the establishment of the Family Studies Center and the World Family Policy Center at the church-sponsored Brigham Young University (Wardle, Williams, and Wilkins 2001).
The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints warn its members and the world that "[d]isintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. . . . We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society" (The Family 1995, p. 102).
bachman, d. w., and esplin, r. k. (1992). "plural marriage." encyclopedia of mormonism, vol. 3. new york: macmillan.
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cornwall, m. (1994). "the institutional role of mormon women." in contemporary mormonism: social science perspectives, ed. m. cornwall, t. b. heaton, and l.a. young. chicago: university of illinois.
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heaton, t. b. (1989). "religious influences on mormon fertility: cross-national comparisons." review of religious research 30(4):401–411.
heaton, t. b. (1992). "vital statistics." encyclopedia ofmormonism,vol. 4. new york: macmillan.
heaton, t. b.; goodman, k. l.; and holman, t. b. (1994). "in search of a peculiar people: are mormon families really different?" in contemporary mormonism: social science perspectives, ed. m. cornwall, t. b. heaton, and l. a. young. chicago: university of illinois.
hinckley, g. b. (1999). "why we do some of the things we do." ensign (november):52.
iannaccone, l. r., and miles, c.a. (1990). "dealing with social change: the mormon church's response to change in women's roles." social forces 68(4):1231–1250.
litchfield, a. w.; thomas, d. l.; and li, b. d. (1997). "dimensions of religiosity as mediators of the relations between parenting and adolescent deviant behavior." journal of adolescent research 12(2):199–226.
madsen, c. c. (1992). "woman suffrage." encyclopedia ofmormonism, vol. 4. new york: macmillan.
nelson, r. m. (1999). "our sacred duty to honor women." ensign (may):38.
parry, k. (1994). "the mormon missionary companionship." in contemporary mormonism: social science perspectives, ed. m. cornwall, t. b. heaton, and l. a. young. chicago: university of illinois.
presley, s.; weaver, j.; and weaver, b. (1986). "traditional and nontraditional mormon women: political attitudes and socialization." women and politics 5(4):51–77.
scott, r. g. (2001). "first things first." ensign (may):6.
smith, b. b., and thomas, s. w. (1992). "gospel principles and the roles of women." encyclopedia of mormonism. vol. 4. new york: macmillan.
thomas, d. l. (1983). "family in the mormon experience." in families and religions: conflict and change in modern society, ed. w. v. d'antonio and j. aldous. beverly hills, ca: sage.
todd, j. m. (2000). "news of the church." ensign (september):76.
wardle, l. d; williams, r. n; and wilkins, r. g. (2001). "defending marriage and family through law and policy." in strengthening our families: an in-depth look at the proclamation on the family strenthening our families, ed. d. c. dollahite. salt lake city, ut: bookcraft.
white, o. k., jr. (1986). "ideology of the family in nineteenth-century mormonism." sociological spectrum 6:289–306.
DENNIS T. HAYNES
MARK O. JARVIS
"Mormonism." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormonism
"Mormonism." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormonism
ETHNONYMS: Latter-day Saints, LDS, Saints
Identification. The Mormons are a religious-based cultural group founded in western New York State in 1830. They were one of a number of such groups founded in this part of the country during the first half of the nineteenth century. Others included the Shakers, Campbellites, the Oneida Community, and the Community of the Publick Universal Friend. All groups were based in part on a communal lifestyle or value system and a reemphasis of New England Puritan beliefs. Unlike the other groups, however, Mormonism has flourished and is now a worldwide religion. The name "Mormon" is commonly applied to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and splinter groups such as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (founded in 1860) and the Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonites). The Mormons apply the term Gentile to all those who are not members of the church and often refer to themselves as LDS or Saints.
Location. The majority of the Mormon population is located in the intermountain region of the western United States, especially in the state of Utah, in a distinct cultural Region labeled by cultural geographers as the Mormon Region. The region consists of a core, domain, and sphere. The core is the zone of the most dense, continuous Mormon population and runs about sixty-five miles north to south in the Wasatch Oasis, centered on Salt Lake City. The domain runs from the upper Snake River country of Idaho south to the lower Virgin River area and southeast Nevada and includes most of west-central Utah and sizable sections of southeast and northeast Utah. The sphere encompasses those areas where Mormons live in clustered communities within the general population. In addition to Utah, it includes parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Finally, many Mormons live among the general population, especially in urban areas, with sizable numbers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland. There are also significant numbers of members in South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania.
Demography. As of the 1980s the church claimed more than 5 million members around the world. Because of a high birth rate, longer than average life expectancy in the United States, and recruitment of new members through worldwide missionary work, the Mormon church has a very high growth rate. In 1989, there were about 4 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States and over 200,000 in splinter groups.
Linguistic Affiliation. Mormons in the United States speak English and the basic church documents are written in English. In other nations, members usually speak the native language of the country or of their cultural group.
History and Cultural Relations
The church was officially organized in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr., and five followers. Smith, known as "The Prophet," claimed to receive his authority and guidance through divine revelation, and he taught that he was the instrument through which God had restored the church instituted by Jesus Christ. He called others to join him in building the "City of Zion" in preparation for the second coming of Christ. The early years of the church were marked by a series of migrations as hostilities between Mormons and their non-Mormon neighbors caused the Mormons to abandon settlements and move westward. The first temple was built in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. In 1841 the group moved to Independence, Missouri, then to northern Missouri, and then across the Mississippi River to what became the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo. In 1844 Joseph Smith was killed by a Gentile mob in Illinois. His death was followed by a brief period of division and dissension within the church over the election of his successor.
Eventually the majority coalesced behind Brigham Young who headed the church until his death in 1877. Under his leadership the Mormons undertook their last forced Migration, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah in 1847. Young named the region "Deseret" and in 1849 sought recognition from the federal government as a state. Congress refused, and designated a much smaller region as Utah Territory. Troubles with the government, other settlers, and Indians continued, and in 1857, the U.S. Army was sent to the area to confront Young and the Mormons he had gathered together in Salt Lake City. The confrontation was Peaceful, though the federal presence was continued through the establishment of Fort Douglas overlooking Salt Lake City in the 1860s.
From this base the Mormons then spread and settled throughout the intermountain region, primarily through the formation of farming communities and towns. The church hierarchy played a key role in planning and organizing the settlement and development of this region. An important factor in the growth and development of the church and the Mormon settlement of the West was the large influx of migrants assisted by the church's Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Converts were actively sought and encouraged to migrate to Utah. It is estimated that between 1850 and 1900 the church helped some 90,000-100,000 people immigrate to the United States, primarily from England, Denmark, and Switzerland. Today, there are a number of counties within the Mormon region with markedly high Danish and Swissancestry populations.
The Mormons remained fairly isolated in Utah and adjacent areas until the late 1860s when mining, railroads, and manufacturing attracted non-Mormons to the area in ever-increasing numbers, leading once again to conflicts over Social, political, economic, and religious matters. Major issues included the church's role in political affairs, the church's financial holdings and policies, and polygynous marriage by Mormons. This time the U.S. government became actively involved, passing and enforcing legislation aimed at restricting the church's financial practices and Mormon polygyny. By the end of the nineteenth century, the church had made major concessions in its policies as an accommodation to the non-Mormon society within which it had to operate. The conflicts that marked Mormon-Gentile relations over the first seventy years of the church's existence then gave way to the peaceful relations that have existed since. By 1900 the Mormon region as it now exists was basically settled, with the possibility of future expansion limited by the surrounding Gentile settlements.
Mormon communities established in the 1800s in Utah and Mormon buildings displayed stylistic features that have been identified as uniquely Mormon. These included a N-S-E-W grid plan with large rectangular blocks, wide streets, roadside irrigation ditches, open fields around towns, cattle and sheep pastured together, unpainted farm buildings, red and lightbrown or white houses, brick houses, hay derricks, central-hall house plans, tree-lined streets, and Mormon-style chapels. Buildings constructed since about 1900 generally lack these features and more often reflect outside architectural and stylistic influences.
Commercial and Subsistence Activities. The Mormons are participants in the U.S. economy. Historically, however, the Mormons attempted to develop their own economic System and to achieve economic independence from non-Mormons. The Mormon economic ideal, based on the biblical notion of stewardship, was communal ownership. According to this ideal, church members would consecrate all their property and surplus earnings to the church. The church in turn would distribute to each member household that which it needed to survive. Although this ideal was never fully implemented, the values placed on communalism and Cooperation and the central economic function of the church were influential in Mormon economic activities and experiments. At present, Mormons in good standing give tithes (10 percent of their income) to the church and 2 percent to the ward, but private property is the norm. In the initial phases of settling the Utah territory, the development of irrigation and agriculture were of primary importance. Mormon leaders were also concerned with developing essential small-scale industries. As the U.S. economy has grown and industrialized, so has the economy of Utah. At present, the majority of Mormons work in industry, commerce, and the professions with agriculture remaining an important though secondary source of income.
The church is often reported to be enormously wealthy, although the actual value of church property and investments is unknown. Still, it is no secret that the church owns considerable real estate in the western and southern United States and a variety of businesses such as banks, insurance companies, hotels, newspapers, and radio stations. The church also has large expenses involved in constructing and maintaining church property and in supporting missionary activities around the world.
Division of Labor. Mormons have tended to follow societal norms with men working outside the home and women responsible for most domestic tasks. Since the beginning, Mormons have stressed sexual equality, and though women cannot be priests, they are actively involved in other church organizations. There is also an emphasis on age, as reflected in the power held by older men in the church hierarchy.
Land Tenure. Property rights are seen as a temporary trust held by humans as stewards for the Lord. Individual property ownership is the norm, with a strong value placed on communal effort under church authority.
Kinship, Marriage and Family
Marriage and Family. Mormons place high values on marriage and family and kinship ties, with large, close-knit, nuclear families the ideal. These values are supported by customs such as annual family reunions, weekly home nights for family activities, and group rather than individually oriented recreational activities. The practice of polygyny was a matter of church doctrine and commonly practiced in the nineteenth century. Harassment from non-Mormons and the U.S. government over the issue led church officials to renounce the teaching in 1890. The practice of polygyny persists among some fundamentalists, but they are subject to excommunication from the official church, and the overwhelming majority of Mormons are opposed to polygyny.
Socialization. Mormons stress education and have Perhaps the highest percentage of college graduates among their members of any religious group in the United States. Early Socialization takes place within the family, extended kin network, and church framework. Regular involvement in group activities with other Mormons is perhaps the most important activity. Many Mormons attend college at Brigham Young University, the largest church-affiliated university in the United States. High school and college programs are supplemented by seminary and institute programs, both designed to stress Mormon beliefs and values and to keep the adolescents involved in Mormon group activities.
Social Organization. The Mormons emphasize close relationships among church members and social distance Between themselves and nonmembers. The church sponsors a number of social groups and social occasions for its members. Particularly important groups are the church auxiliary Organizations such as the Women's Relief Society, the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association, and the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association. These organizations combine social, recreational, educational, and religious functions. Although a formal class structure is absent within the church framework, wealth differences between Mormons or between families are noted, and those among the very wealthy enjoy access to the leaders of the church. Although Mormons, in a general sense, are part of the American class system, their self-identity as Mormons is far more important and takes precedence in social situations. The place of American Indians and African-Americans in the church for some time has been equivocal. Both groups are represented in the Membership, but not in the church hierarchy. Similarly, the leaders have always been men.
Political Organization. The organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is both lateral and Hierarchical and exceedingly complex. Laterally, the church is organized territorially into wards and stakes (called respectively branches and missions in areas where membership is too small to warrant full-scale organization). Wards are locallevel units, roughly equivalent to a parish, with an average of about six hundred members each and presided over by a ward bishop and his two counsellors. Wards are organized into stakes, with an average of about five thousand members each, which are governed by stake presidents, his two counsellors, and a stake Council. Above the stakes are the general authorities of the church, who include the First Presidence (the first president and his two counsellors), the Quorum of the Twelve (the Apostles), the First Council (the Council of the Seventies), the presiding bishopric, and the patriarch of the church. The first president is the apex of religious and administrative authority within the church. He is considered the successor to Joseph Smith, Jr., bears Smith's title—"prophet, seer, and revelator"—and holds office for life. When the office of the first president falls vacant, the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve succeeds to the office which he holds until he dies. Since the founding of the church, authority has rested with White males, a source of discord today, particularly among some women and African-American members.
Mormons have always been involved in local, state, and national politics and are a major force in Utah politics. They have usually managed to achieve a workable balance between loyalties to the state and to the church, both on the group and individual levels.
Social Control and Conflict. As noted above, it was not until about 1900 that Mormon conflicts with Gentiles and the federal government were resolved. Mormon relations with Indians (the Ute in Utah) were generally friendlier than Between Indians and other settlers. This arose mostly from the Mormons' belief that American Indians are of Hebraic origin and that one goal of Mormonism is to reconvert Indians to Christianity. The Mormons and the Ute were also allies in conflicts with non-Mormon settlers. The Mormons emphasize work and personal development and discourage activities such as alcohol and tobacco consumption that might interfere with that goal. Drinking coffee and tea are also discouraged. As marriage and the family are key social institutions, divorce and birth control are also discouraged, although neither is uncommon. In general, internal social control is achieved through lifelong involvement in Mormonism.
Religious Beliefs. The Mormon religion is based on Judeo-Christian Scriptures (the Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, said to be a scriptural account of events in the New World between 600 b.c. and a.d. 421, and teaching believed to have come to their prophets through divine revelation as reported in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. The Mormons believe in a three-person Godhead, the immortality of the human spirit, and salvation of the soul through baptism, proper behavior, and repentance of sin. They believe they have the "gifts" or powers outlined in the New Testament including those of healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy. They also believe that Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth. Like many modern religions, there are conflicts within the church regarding religious interpretation and the degree of literalness with which the scriptures should be regarded.
Religious Practitioners. There is no professional Priesthood within the Mormon church. Rather, any "worthy" practicing Mormon male may become a priest when he reaches the age of twelve or so. There are two levels of the priesthood: the Aaronic, or lower, priesthood and the Melchizidek, or higher, priesthood. Ideally, boys enter the Aaronic priesthood at the age of twelve and move through the three offices within this priesthood (deacon, teacher, priest) by the age of twenty. "Worthy" adult males enter the Melchizidek priesthood, which also has three offices (elder, seventy, and high priest). Members of the higher priesthood have greater authority and wider ritual prerogatives than do members of the lesser Priesthood.
Ceremonies. Mormons believe that "worship is the voluntary homage of the soul." Religious services are relatively sedate and involve prayer, singing, and blessings. Baptism and the marriage ceremony are particularly important ceremonies, and individual prayer is a central element of many Mormons' lives. Private religious ceremonies may be more elaborate and emotional than public ones.
Arlington, Leonard J. (1966). Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Francaviglia, Richard V. (1978). The Mormon Landscape. New York: AMS Press.
Green, Doyle L., and Randall L. Green (1974). Meet the Mormons: A Pictorial Introduction to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Its People. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
Meinig, D. W. (1965). "The Mormon Culture Region: Strategies and Patterns in the Geography of the American West, 1847-1964." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55:191-220.
O'Dea, Thomas F. (1957). The Mormons. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Shipps, Jan (1985). Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious
Tradition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Talmage, James E. (1976). A Study of the Articles of Faith; Being a Consideration of the Principal Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 51st ed. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Turner, Wallace (1966). Mormon Establishment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
"Mormons." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
"Mormons." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of
LATTER-DAY SAINTS, CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF
LATTER-DAY SAINTS, CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF. The Mormon Church traces its origins to founder Joseph Smith's vision of 1820, which upheld the view that no existing church had "right" doctrine. Mormonism avowed a belief in the Trinity but denied original sin. It stressed faith in Jesus Christ, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit. While it accepted the Bible as the word of God, Smith's discovery of an alternative scripture, the Book of Mormon, provided an account
of an Israelite prophet, Lehi, who was commanded by God in 600 b.c. to lead a small group of people to the American continent. It also recorded the appearance of Christ, after his Resurrection, to the people in America. Early Mormonism held that there would be a literal gathering of Israel to the United States and that Zion would be built upon the American continent. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) was organized on 6 April 1830.
The Early Years
The new Church settled in Ohio, where it fostered a communitarian lifestyle, created a collective religious leadership, and launched the first mission to England in 1837. It then moved to Missouri, where political and religious controversy led to the Mormon War of 1838. The Saints withdrew to Illinois where they established the new city of Nauvoo in 1840, an agricultural rather than a commercial center. At Nauvoo, the Relief Society was established in 1842 to improve community morals. During this period, Joseph Smith also received a revelation, enjoining members of the Church to practice plural marriage (polygamy), based on precedents from the Old Testament.
Nauvoo and the Migration
While the Mormons engaged in Illinois politics, sympathy for the idea of a Mormon kingdom in the West increased during the early 1840s. After the governor of Illinois ordered a trial of the Church leadership for the destruction of the press of a newspaper critical to Mormonism, Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered in Carthage, Illinois, on 27 June 1844. The state legislature revoked the Nauvoo charter in January 1845 and the Church announced plans for removal in September 1845. In 1846, 12,000 Saints left Illinois, dedicating the Nauvoo Temple before their departure, and the Pioneer Company reached the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847. The state of Deseret was established in January 1849 as the civil government of the territory.
In 1850, LDS Church President Brigham Young sought statehood within the United States, but this was blocked in Congress, and territorial status was accepted in 1851. Young encouraged colonization to the south of Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front, where communities were organized to encourage community life and religious activity, with common pastures and the cooperative raising of grain. Missionaries were sent to Latin America and Europe, and the notion of the Gathering of Zion (the migration of converts to Utah) was fostered by means of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund in the late 1850s. Given the Church's political dominance, tensions soon arose with federally appointed officials. President James Buchanan sent a force to Utah in 1857, in the face of protests about Brigham Young's dictatorial rule. Young recalled distant colonists, declared martial law, and forbade the entry of federal troops and in June 1858 a peace formula was negotiated.
The Church in the Nineteenth Century
During the Civil War the Latter-day Saints remained generally loyal to the Union. After the war, mining and cotton production developed in southern Utah and railroad connections in 1869 broke down the territory's isolation. A new Mormon cooperative system discouraged trade with outsiders, and after the depression of 1873, an effort was made to foster strongly collectivist cooperative organizations, called the United Orders, but these did not endure. A movement to Arizona and Wyoming took place in the late 1870s, and Mormons settled in Mexico in 1886. By 1880, the Church had 134,000 members, 80 percent of whom lived in Utah. Missionary work was pursued in Mexico, Polynesia, and the domestic United States, though Mormons faced violent reprisals in the American South. Missions increased between 1890 and 1900, as 6,125 missionaries were sent out, but immigration to Utah was discouraged after 1890.
The War Against Polygamy
In the late 1860s, a war against polygamy was unleashed in Utah Territory and other parts of the West inhabited by Latter-day Saints. The anti-Mormon Liberal Party was formed in Utah in 1870 to oppose LDS political and economic dominance, while James McKean, chief justice of Utah Territory, launched a campaign to prosecute those who practiced polygamy, including Brigham Young. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862. Non-Mormons in Utah called for resolute action on polygamy and the Edmunds Act of 1882 assured penalties for polygamy and disenfranchised twelve thousand Saints. Over one thousand men were sent to jail in Utah, and similar prosecutions took place in Idaho and Arizona. Five years later, the Edmunds-Tucker Act threatened to destroy the Church by dissolving it as a legal corporation, a move upheld by the Supreme Court in 1890. Fearful that all members of the Church would be disenfranchised, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto against polygamy in 1890, accepted willingly by most Mormons, and a new understanding was reached with the federal authorities.
The Church in the Progressive Era
In the early twentieth century, the LDS Church displayed a greater readiness to become involved in the affairs of the nation. In 1903, Apostle Reed Smoot was elected to the Senate despite charges of disloyalty to the nation. The Church solved its debt problem with bond issues and curtailed its direct involvement in business ventures. Established missions were strengthened and a new training system for missionaries established. Signs of Mormon integration came with the increasing national popularity of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Church's support for national prohibition after 1916, and its contributions to
the war effort. During World War I, twenty-four thousand Latter-day Saints enlisted in the armed forces, the Church and its auxiliaries bought $1.4 million worth of Liberty bonds, and the Relief Society sold its store of wheat to the government.
The Response to the Depression
During the 1920s, the agricultural depression drove many Saints to the cities and made them a more urban people. The Church's Relief Society created a Social Welfare Department in 1919, and the Church began to undertake more intensive studies of social problems and foster cooperation with some secular agencies. The coming of the Great Depression in 1929, therefore, did not catch the Church entirely unprepared. Although opposed to the dole, it did not condemn federal work relief. A survey of need was carried out in 1933 and local units were urged to create community enterprises. In 1936, the Church launched the Welfare Plan under Harold B. Lee, reviving the idea of the bishop's storehouse and calling on local units to establish coordinating committees. An exchange system was formed and make-work projects created where necessary, based around agriculture. This provided positive publicity for the Church, and even progressive periodicals like Time and The Nation started to reflect a more positive view of Mormon life.
An International Church
During World War II, one hundred thousand Mormons entered the armed forces, and the LDS Serviceman's Committee was organized to provide programs and guidelines for them. Missionary activity was resumed in 1946, and by 1950, there were five thousand missionaries, twelve hundred of them in Europe. A new sense of internationalism was evident, with the shift of missionaries to Asia. Efforts also were made to keep young men and women involved in church life through recreational activity, and seminary involvement grew from 28,600 to 81,400. Student wards were created in university towns, enabling students for the first time to hold church offices. A new churchwide home teaching program was begun in 1964, with priesthood holders expected to get to know the families in their charges, and the family home evening program was launched in 1965. By the end of the 1960s, the church had achieved a membership of 2.8 million, with new growth in Latin America and seventeen thousand missionaries in the field.
The Latter-day Saints Today
In politics, the Church shifted sharply to the right during the 1960s, although Apostle Hugh Brown supported some social welfare programs and was a Democratic candidate for U.S. senator. By the late 1970s, however, the Church eschewed direct political participation in favor of taking stands opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment, legalized abortion, and gambling. In 1978, LDS Church President Spencer Kimball received a revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male believers (prior to this date, black males had been excluded from the otherwise universal male priesthood), solving the problem of the priesthood in South America and Africa as well as the United States. In 1998, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that church members who practiced polygamy risked excommunication, but the Church was drawn uncomfortably into the spotlight in 2000 when Tom Green of Utah was prosecuted on charges of polygamy. The Church in the 1990s, led by President Hinckley since 1995, was an expanding force, though more outside the United States than within it, with over five million members in 1998.
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"Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/latter-day-saints-church-jesus-christ
The Mormon Church is a religious body founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York, by Joseph Smith. It is also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS Church. There are 7.7 million Mormons worldwide. Approximately two-thirds reside in the United States, with the highest concentration in the western states, especially Utah. The church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, encountered legal difficulties during its early years because of its practice of polygamy and its opposition to the use of common law as legal precedent. The church's differences with the U.S. government led to armed conflict in the late 1800s.
Joseph Smith based his teachings on his translation of hieroglyphic messages revealed to him on several golden plates. Smith's translation of these divine messages is known as the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon and the Bible form the basis of Mormon belief.
During the early 1800s, Smith and his followers settled in Kirtland, Ohio, and Jackson County, Missouri, where they were persecuted because of their beliefs. They moved to Illinois and helped establish the town of Nauvoo, where the church prospered. However, local residents became inflamed over rumors that Smith and his followers were practicing polygamy, or plural marriage. Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested and taken to Carthage, the county seat. On June 27, 1844, they were both shot and killed by a group of townspeople.
Smith was succeeded by Brigham Young, the head of the church's Council of the Twelve Apostles. In 1846 Young organized and directed church members to follow him from Nauvoo to the Great Salt Basin in the Utah Territory. They settled there and established the headquarters of the church in Salt Lake City.
In Utah the Mormon Church prospered and grew. In addition to leading the church, Young became provisional governor of the Utah Territory in 1849. In that capacity he and the other members of the government, most of whom were Mormons, defied the U.S. government by
rejecting common law as valid legal precedent in Utah. Common law, as distinct from statutory law, is English precedent adopted by U.S. courts. Over time, common law became part of U.S. jurisprudence except where it was expressly abrogated. Although Young patterned the structure of Utah's territorial government after the other state governments, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches, he believed that the United States should abandon all vestiges of English tradition. According to Young, the application of common law allowed judges too much latitude to impose standards that did not comport with public will.
Young's opposition to the application of common law reached its nadir over the issue of polygamy. By the mid-1800s, the Mormon Church had acknowledged polygamy as one of its tenets. Mormon teaching of the time held that men were obligated to have multiple wives. Common law provides that marriage to more than one living husband or wife is a felony and that any marriages other than the first are void.
When President millard fillmore assigned three federal judges to the Utah Territory in the 1850s, Young became concerned that the new judges would impose common-law precedent. He attempted to blunt their impact by urging the legislature to prohibit judges from using common-law precedent in Utah. On January 14, 1854, the legislature passed a bill that prohibited any law from being read, cited, or adopted in Utah unless it had been enacted by the legislature or the governor. This bill directly contravened the Organic Act of Utah of 1850 (9 Stat. 453) by which the U.S. Congress created the Utah Territory. The act gave the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal district courts of the territory both common-law and equity jurisdiction and established that the laws of the United States applied in the territory. In 1856 the Territorial Supreme Court held that the Organic Act extended common law over the Territory of Utah and that the legislature violated the Organic Act when it forbade the use of common law in Utah (People v. Moroni Green, 1 Utah 11 ).
Tensions continued to mount between Mormons and the federal government. In May 1857 President james buchanan dispatched 2,500 U.S. Army troops to Utah to remove Young from office and enforce federal authority. Anticipating the federal troops' arrival, a group of angry Mormons joined forces with a group of Paiute Indians who attacked and killed 120 settlers traveling through the territory in September 1857. Mormon leaders feared that the attack, known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, would lead to further reprisals by the federal government. They sent sympathetic church members to destroy the Army's supplies, thereby delaying the troops' arrival. The Mormons' resistance came to be known as the Utah War. By the time the troops arrived in the summer of 1858, tensions had eased considerably, and under a negotiated settlement, troops were stationed outside Salt Lake City without incident.
The Mormon Church's resistance to the application of common law continued through the late 1800s. A number of cases reached the Territorial Supreme Court, which repeatedly affirmed that common law is valid in the territory. (See Murphy v. Carter, 1 Utah 17 , and Godebe v. Salt Lake City, 1 Utah 68 ). In First National Bank of Utah v. Kinner, 1 Utah 100 (1873), the court held that the people of the Utah territory had tacitly agreed to the application of common law. In 1878 the U.S. Supreme Court settled the question of whether the common-law prohibition of polygamy applied in the territory. In Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. (8 Otto) 145, 25 L. Ed. 244, the plaintiff argued that the common-law prohibition of polygamy was unconstitutional because it violated the first amendment guarantee of freedom of religion. The Court disagreed and held that religious freedom does not encompass the practice of polygamy and that laws prohibiting the practice are constitutional. The Court stated that to allow Mormons to practice plural marriage "would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances."
By the 1890s the Mormon Church had officially abandoned the practice of plural marriage. In 1896 Utah became a state, and in 1898 the legislature passed a measure that declared that the common law "shall be the rule of decision in all courts of this state" (The Revised Statutes of the State of Utah, § 2488). The common law continues to carry the force of precedent in Utah, except for the common law of crimes, which the legislature abolished in 1973 (Utah Code Ann. § 76-1-105; repealed, Utah Code Ann. § 68-2-3; replaced by Utah Code Ann. § 68-3-1).
Acts, Resolutions and Memorials Passed at the Several Annual Sessions of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah. 1855. Salt Lake City: Caine.
Eliason, Eric A., ed. 2001. Mormons and Mormonism: An Introduction to an American World Religion. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.
Flor, Victoria Slind. 1998. "Mormons' Impact on the Law is Singular; a Coherent World View Informs Approach to Lawmaking, Lawsuits, the Constitution and Lawyers." The National Law Journal 21 (October 26): A1.
Homer, Michael. 1996. "The Judiciary and the Common Law in Utah." Utah Bar Journal 9 (September).
Mauro, Tony. 2003. "Mormon Land Dispute Tests First Amendment." Legal Times 26 (April 28): 11.
Ostling, Richard, and Joan K. Ostling. 2000. Mormon America: The Power and the Promise. San Francisco: Harper-SanFrancisco.
"Mormon Church." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormon-church
"Mormon Church." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormon-church
Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, name of the church founded (1830) at Fayette, N.Y., by Joseph Smith. The headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its members, now numbering about 5.7 million in the United States and 13 million worldwide (2008), are commonly called Mormons.
Beliefs and Organization
Mormon belief is based on the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and various revelations made to Joseph Smith during the course of his life. The Book of Mormon, which is ascribed to the prophet Mormon, recounts the early history of peoples in America from c.600 BC to c.AD 420. According to Mormon doctrine, these peoples were lost tribes of Israel who had immigrated to America and become the ancestors of Native Americans; they had been visited by Jesus and believed in him. Smith also asserted that God, angels, and human beings were members of the same species, and that God was an exalted Man. He also believed that Jesus was the only Messiah and that God and Jesus were two separate beings.
The Mormon's Aaronic priesthood (deacons, teachers, priests, and bishops), which every worthy male who is at least 12 years of age may receive, is primarily concerned with the temporal affairs of the church; that of Melchizedek (elders and high priests) is concerned with the spiritual leadership. High priests are represented in the Council of Twelve (the Apostles) and in the first presidency (the president and two counselors—three high priests vested with supreme authority). The territorial divisions of the Mormon settlements are wards and stakes. Each ward has a bishop and two counselors; five to ten wards compose a stake.
Significant characteristics of the Mormon creed include the emphasis on revelation in the establishment of doctrines and rituals, the interdependence of temporal and spiritual life, tithing, and attention to community welfare. Mormons practice baptism for the dead; they believe that the deceased soul may receive the baptism necessary for salvation by proxy of a living believer. They also believe in "celestial marriage," whereby individuals marry for all eternity. Mormons carry out a campaign of vigorous proselytizing which has, in the course of a century and a quarter, raised the church from a handful of followers to its present size.
Founding of the Church
The history of the Mormons began with Smith's claim that during the 1820s in Palmyra, N.Y., the angel Moroni revealed to him that golden tablets containing the Book of Mormon lay buried there. These tablets were translated into a Biblical-like English by Smith and a friend. Smith soon (1831) established a headquarters for his organization at Kirtland, Ohio. His following grew rapidly, particularly from the intensive missionary activity in which members engaged, both in the United States and abroad. Stakes of Zion, as the Mormons called their settlements, were started in W Missouri, and Smith prepared to make the region the permanent home of his people. However, the intolerance of gentile neighbors toward the Mormons's communal economy and unconventional belief system led to persecution and violence. Finally, in 1838–39, Gov. Lillburn W. Boggs ordered their expulsion (see also Doniphan, Alexander William).
Violence in Illinois
The Mormons sought a new Zion in the Illinois town of Nauvoo. There, they received a charter giving them virtual autonomy, with the right to maintain their own militia, their own court, and the power to pass any laws not in conflict with the state or federal constitutions. The town expanded as converts poured in from abroad, and in 1842 it was the largest and most powerful town in Illinois. The growing wealth and strength of the Mormon community caused envy and fear among their neighbors.
At about that time, Joseph Smith, as mayor of Nauvoo, ordered the suppression of church dissidents. Violence resulted, and Smith called out the Nauvoo militia to protect the city. For this, he and his brother, Hyrum, were arrested by Illinois authorities (June 24, 1844), and charged with treason. They were jailed in Carthage, Ill., where three days later they were murdered by an angry mob.
After that many Mormons fled, dissension and suspicion were rife, and there was debate over the succession to Smith's leadership. Possible choices included another brother, William Smith, and several prominent leaders, notably Sidney Rigdon, James Jesse Strang, Lyman Wight, and Brigham Young, whom the church leaders ultimately chose.
The Mormons under Brigham Young
Young proved a forceful and able leader who dominated and worked for the good of his people. Again, it became necessary for the Mormons to find a home. Under Young's guidance, a remote spot was chosen, the valley of the Great Salt Lake in what is now Utah. Those who rejected Young's leadership and claimed the succession for a son of Joseph Smith declined to accompany the main body to Utah; they ultimately constituted themselves into a separate church (see Community of Christ).
In July, 1847, the first settlers reached what is now Salt Lake City and began an agricultural community. The first few years were extremely difficult, but the organization of the Mormons for community welfare, their great industry, and the determined leadership of Young made for their success. Through extensive irrigation, farming prospered.
In 1849, the Mormons wished to have their communities admitted to the Union as the State of Deseret, but the area became Utah Territory instead. Brigham Young was appointed territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs, but Mormon isolation was destroyed. Non-Mormons filtered in, resented by the Mormons. Young's formal announcement in 1852 of the doctrine of plural marriage, based on a revelation Joseph Smith recorded in 1843 (but dating to early 1830s), set the Mormons further apart from their fellow Americans. Thereafter, polygamy was luridly discussed in newspapers across the country. The antagonism was very strong in the 1850s, and when President Buchanan sent out Col. Albert S. Johnston with an army force in 1857, Young prepared to defend the Mormon state. The Utah War did not rise to serious proportions, but the bitterness of feeling was shown after the massacre of the members of a wagon train at Mountain Meadows in 1857, for which Mormons have been held responsible.
The question of plural marriage was the important point in Utah's bid for statehood. Congress passed laws against polygamy aimed solely at Utah. Despite persecution, the Mormon community was a thoroughly established commonwealth by the time of Brigham Young's death in 1877. Statehood was finally granted after Mormon president Wilford Woodruff made a statement (1890) withdrawing church sanction of polygamy: Utah entered the Union as the 45th state in 1896. Since then, the church has spread beyond Utah, becoming truly international in the late 20th cent. when church membership roughly doubled. More than half of all Mormons now live outside the United States. The nomination in 2012 of Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon, as the Republican presidential candidate marked a breakthrough for Mormon politicians, but many Mormons from both major parties had long been prominent in U.S. politics and government.
A number of Mormons, generally referred to as fundamentalists, continue to believe in plural marriage, either as members of a splinter church or quietly within the mainstream church, which excommunicates those who adhere to the practice. Some 10,000 people in North America belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest of the splinter faiths. Many of its members live in SW Utah and NW Arizona.
See J. Smith, The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1880 ed., repr. 1971); studies by L. Arrington and D. Bitton (1979), R. Bushman (1984), T. Alexander (1986), J. Coates (1991), D. M. Quinn (1994), R. N. and J. K. Ostling (1999), J. Krakauer (2003), M. Bowman (2012), J. S. Fluhman (2012), and P. C. Gutjahr (2012); D. H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (5 vol., 1992).
"Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/latter-day-saints-church-jesus-christ
"Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/latter-day-saints-church-jesus-christ
Origins. The Mormon church, formally called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was the most successful of the dozens of new sects and communitarian movements that emerged in nineteenth-century America. Formed in rural New York with about thirty members in 1830, by the end of the twentieth century the church boasted over nine million members worldwide. The founder and prophet of the Mormon church was a young man of humble origins named Joseph Smith. Raised in an area of New York known for its frequent revivals and religious experimentation, Smith, like many of his day, felt bewildered by the array of competing religious claims. Uncertain of which church offered the truth, he prayed for guidance. According to his account, written years later, God responded to his entreaty, instructing him to join no church since all were flawed. Instead Smith was to await further instruction about a mission for which he had been divinely chosen. A few years later, Smith recounted, he was guided by an angel to a hill in the woods near his home, where he dug up a set of golden plates inscribed with ancient writing. With divine aid, the untutored Smith wrote, he was able to translate the plates into an English version, published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon.
Words of Christ. The Book of Mormon presents itself as an historical narrative about the descendants of one of the lost tribes of ancient Israel, who migrated to the Americas long before the birth of Christ. The work is said to be “another testament of Jesus Christ” because it relates a visit of Christ to the New World after his resurrection. Through Christ’s preaching, the book relates, the true church was established in America, only to be lost after one faction of the people, known as the Lamanites, had become unfaithful and eventually defeated the faithful Nephites. According to this account the Lamanites were the ancestors of the American Indians. It was one of the last remaining Nephites, their military leader, Mormon, who inscribed their history on the golden plates and instructed an angel to bury them until the time when Smith was directed to them.
Appeal. To many who read the Book of Mormon this new “testament” seemed nothing more than the fantasy of a young man with an active imagination. To others it was more threatening, a heretical document composed by a fraudulent prophet who hoped to fleece the gullible. But there were also those who found in the book the answers they had been seeking. It offered authoritative resolutions of many of the doctrinal controversies of the day and stressed the free will of man and the free grace of God. It provided comfort and hope to the dispossessed and downplayed the distinction between clergy and laity. Perhaps most appealingly, it portrayed America as the chosen land in which the kingdom of God would ultimately be established. Those who followed its teachings were promised a primary role in building that kingdom and were assured that they would be present when Christ returned to earth.
Flight from Persecution. In the early years of the church the Mormons moved frequently, in part because they were searching for the place to found God’s kingdom and in part because they faced a nearly constant onslaught of anti-Mormon propaganda and sometimes outright persecution. Their first move, in 1831, was from New York to Kirtland, Ohio, where they had been invited by Sidney Rigdon, a former Disciples of Christ preacher who was attracted by Smith’s advocacy of a communitarian lifestyle. They bought land, set up businesses, constructed a temple, and sent out dozens of missionaries across Ohio and to the West. Their membership grew rapidly, but their growth, along with their debts and other financial difficulties, aroused resentment in the surrounding communities. In 1837 they left Kirtland for a new settlement near Independence, Missouri. Smith had long before named Missouri as Zion, the location on which the city of God was to be built. But there, too, they faced overwhelming hostility from other settlers who disliked Mormon proselytizing and had no desire to see the Mormon Kingdom erected in their midst. After encounters with an armed militia the Mormons were forced to flee to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they arrived in 1839.
Nauvoo. For a few years it seemed that Smith and his followers had at last found a home. Nauvoo became the largest and fastest-growing city in Illinois. Many of the new settlers were Mormon converts who had left their homes to join the Prophet; many others were converted upon their arrival. Between 1841 and 1843, however, their relatively peaceful existence was disturbed when Smith introduced a series of new doctrines and practices into the church. The most controversial of these, the practice of polygamy, or “plural marriage,” caused conflict within the Mormon community, while rumors of the practice (which was kept secret) caused increased hostility from nonMormons. Hostility grew into violence after Joseph Smith, who had declared himself a candidate in the 1844 race for president of the United States, illegally destroyed the opposition press in Nauvoo. An outraged citizen militia seized Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, who were thrown in a Carthage, Illinois, jail. On 27 June 1844 a mob stormed the jail and murdered both men.
Brigham Young. A struggle for leadership of the Mormon Church followed Smith’s death. One faction denied polygamy and other recent revelations and settled in Missouri as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Smaller splinter groups settled elsewhere in the Midwest. But the largest faction followed Brigham Young on a long trek (1846–1848) to the unsettled territory of what would become Salt Lake City, Utah. Young was a brilliant organizer, and under his guidance the Mormon community prospered. Utah became a formal territory of the United States in 1850, and old conflicts between Mormon ways and the laws and norms of the United States were renewed. Eventually the Mormons renounced polygamy and increasingly conformed to American cultural norms. They have nonetheless maintained their distinctive character, while becoming an accepted and vibrant element of the American religious milieu.
Klaus Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981);
Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985).
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Smith claimed to have found and translated The Book of Mormon by divine revelation. It tells the story of a group of Hebrews who migrated to America c.600 bc, and is taken as scriptural alongside the Bible. The Mormons came into conflict with the US government over their practice of polygamy (officially abandoned in 1890) and moved their headquarters from Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1847 under Smith's successor, Brigham Young.
"Mormon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mormon
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Mor·mon / ˈmôrmən/ • n. a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a religion founded in the U.S. in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. • adj. of or relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: the leader of a Mormon congregation. DERIVATIVES: Mor·mon·ism / -ˌnizəm/ n.
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Latter Day Saints, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: see Community of Christ.
"Latter Day Saints, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
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Latter Day Saints, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
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MORMONS. SeeLatter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of .
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"Mormons." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mormons
Mormons: see Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of.
"Mormons." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
"Mormons." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mormons
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