|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
|Orientation||Latter Day Saint movement|
Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants
Pearl of Great Price
|President[a]||Russell M. Nelson|
|Headquarters||Salt Lake City, Utah, United States|
|Origin||April 6, 1830 as Church of Christ |
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, is a nontrinitarian, Christian restorationist church that considers itself to be the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. The church is headquartered in the United States in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has established congregations and built temples worldwide. According to the church, it has over 16.6 million members and 51,000 full-time volunteer missionaries. The church is the third-largest Christian denomination in the United States, with over 6.7 million self-reported members as of January 2021. It is the largest denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith during the early 19th century period of religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening.
Church theology includes the Christian doctrine of salvation only through Jesus Christ, and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. The church has an open canon which includes four scriptural texts: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Other than the Bible, the majority of the church's canon consists of material believed to have been revealed by God to Joseph Smith; these include commentary and exegesis about the Bible, texts described as lost parts of the Bible, and other works believed to be written by ancient prophets, including the Book of Mormon. Because of doctrinal differences, Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestant churches consider the church to be distinct and separate from mainstream Christianity.
Latter-day Saints believe that the church president is a modern-day "prophet, seer, and revelator" and that Jesus Christ, under the direction of God the Father, leads the church by revealing his will to its president. The president heads a hierarchical structure with various levels reaching down from areas, stakes, to wards. Bishops, drawn from the laity, lead the wards. Male members may be ordained to the priesthood, provided they are living the standards of the church. Women are not ordained to the priesthood, but occupy leadership roles in some church organizations.
Both men and women may serve as missionaries; the church maintains a large missionary program that proselytizes and conducts humanitarian services worldwide. Faithful members adhere to church laws of sexual purity, health, fasting, and Sabbath observance, and contribute ten percent of their income to the church in tithing. The church also teaches about sacred ordinances through which adherents make covenants with God, including baptism, confirmation, the sacrament,[b] priesthood ordination, endowment, and celestial marriage.
The history of the church is typically divided into three broad time periods: (1) the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, which is in common with all churches associated with the Latter Day Saint movement (2) a pioneer era under the leadership of Brigham Young and his 19th-century successors; and (3) a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century as Utah achieved statehood.
Joseph Smith formally organized the church as the Church of Christ, on April 6, 1830, in western New York. Smith later changed the name to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints after he stated he had received a revelation to do so. Initial converts were drawn to the church in part because of the newly published Book of Mormon, a self-described chronicle of indigenous American prophets that Smith said he had translated from golden plates.
Smith intended to establish the New Jerusalem in North America, called Zion. In 1831, the church moved to Kirtland, Ohio,[d] and began establishing an outpost in Jackson County, Missouri,[e] where Smith planned to eventually move the church headquarters. However, in 1833, Missouri settlers violently expelled the Latter Day Saints from Jackson County. The church attempted to recover the land through a paramilitary expedition, but did not succeed. Nevertheless, the church flourished in Kirtland as Smith published new revelations and the church built the Kirtland Temple, culminating in a dedication of the building similar to the day of Pentecost. The Kirtland era ended in 1838, after a financial scandal rocked the church and caused widespread defections. Smith regrouped with the remaining church in Far West, Missouri, but tensions soon escalated into violent conflicts with the old Missouri settlers. Believing the Saints to be in insurrection, the Missouri governor ordered that the Saints be "exterminated or driven from the State". In 1839, the Saints converted a swampland on the banks of the Mississippi River into Nauvoo, Illinois, which became the church's new headquarters.
Nauvoo grew rapidly as missionaries sent to Europe and elsewhere gained new converts who then flooded into Nauvoo. Meanwhile, Smith introduced polygamy to his closest associates. He also established ceremonies, which he stated the Lord had revealed to him, to allow righteous people to become gods[f] in the afterlife, and a secular institution to govern the Millennial kingdom. He also introduced the church to a full accounting of his First Vision, in which two heavenly "personages" appeared to him at age 14.[g] This vision would come to be regarded by the LDS Church as the most important event in human history since the resurrection of Jesus. Church members believe Joseph Smith is the first modern-day prophet.
On June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, while being held on charges of treason.[h] Because Hyrum was Joseph's designated successor, their deaths caused a succession crisis, and Brigham Young assumed leadership over the majority of Saints. Young had been a close associate of Smith's and was the senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve.[i]
Other splinter groups followed other leaders around this time. These groups have no affiliation with the LDS Church, however they share a common heritage in their early church history. Collectively, they are called the Latter Day Saint movement. The largest of these smaller groups is the Community of Christ,[j] based in Independence, Missouri, followed by The Church of Jesus Christ, based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Like the LDS Church, these faiths believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet and founder of their religion. They also accept the Book of Mormon, and most, but not all, accept at least some version of the Doctrine and Covenants. However, they tend to disagree to varying degrees with the LDS Church concerning doctrine and church leadership.
For two years after Smith's death, conflicts escalated between Mormons and other Illinois residents. Brigham Young led his followers, known in modern times as the Mormon pioneers, westward to Nebraska and then in 1847 to what became the Utah Territory. As groups of settlers[k] arrived over a period of years, LDS settlers branched out and colonized a large region now known as the Mormon Corridor.
Young incorporated the LDS Church as a legal entity, and initially governed both the church and the state as a theocratic leader. He also publicized the practice of plural marriage in 1852. Modern research suggests that around 20 percent of Mormon families may have participated in the practice.
By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of accusations involving polygamy and the theocratic rule of the Utah Territory by Young. The Utah Mormon War ensued from 1857 to 1858, which resulted in the relatively peaceful invasion of Utah by the United States Army; the most notable instance of violence during this war was the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which leaders of a local Mormon militia ordered the massacre of a civilian emigrant party who was traveling through Utah during the escalating military tensions. After the Army withdrew, Young agreed to step down from power and be replaced by a non-Mormon territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory.
At Young's death in 1877, he was followed by other church presidents, who resisted efforts by the United States Congress to outlaw Mormon polygamous marriages. In 1878, the United States Supreme Court, in Reynolds v. United States, decreed that "religious duty" to engage in plural marriage was not a valid defense to prosecutions for violating state laws against polygamy. Conflict between Mormons and the U.S. government escalated to the point that, in 1890, Congress disincorporated the LDS Church and seized most of its assets. Soon thereafter, church president Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that officially suspended the practice of polygamy. Although this manifesto did not dissolve existing plural marriages,[l] no new polygamous marriages were to be performed in the United States. Relations with the United States markedly improved after 1890, such that Utah was admitted as a U.S. state in 1896. Relations further improved after 1904, when church president Joseph F. Smith again disavowed polygamy before the United States Congress and issued a "Second Manifesto", calling for all plural marriages in the church to cease. Eventually, the church adopted a policy of excommunicating its members found practicing polygamy and today actively distances itself from "fundamentalist" groups still practicing polygamy. Some other, "fundamentalist" groups with relatively small memberships have broken off of the main Church body, primarily over disagreements about the continued practice of polygamy.
During the 20th century, the church grew substantially and became an international organization, due in part to the spread of missionaries around the globe. In 2000, the church reported 60,784 missionaries and global church membership stood at just over 11 million. Worldwide membership surpassed 16 million in 2018. Slightly under half of church membership is within the United States.[m][n]
The church has become a strong and public champion of the nuclear family and at times played a prominent role in political matters, including opposition to MX Peacekeeper missile bases in Utah and Nevada, the Equal Rights Amendment, legalized gambling, same-sex marriage, and physician-assisted death. Apart from issues that it considers to be ones of morality, however, the church maintains a position of political neutrality. Despite this it encourages its members to be politically active, to participate in elections, and to be knowledgeable about current political and social issues within their communities, states, and countries.
A number of official changes have taken place to the organization during the modern era. In 1978, the church reversed its previous policy of excluding black men of African descent from the priesthood, which had been in place since 1852; Church members of all races can now be ordained to the priesthood. There are also periodic changes in the structure and organization of the church, mainly to accommodate the organization's growth and increasing international presence. For example, since the early 1900s, the church has instituted a Priesthood Correlation Program to centralize church operations and bring them under a hierarchy of priesthood leaders. During the Great Depression, the church also began operating a church welfare system, and it has conducted humanitarian efforts in cooperation with other religious organizations including Catholic Relief Services and Muslim Aid, as well as secular organizations such as the American Red Cross.
During the second half of the 20th century and beginnings of the 21st, the church has responded to various challenges to its doctrine and authority. Challenges have included rising secularization, challenges to the correctness of the translation of the Book of Abraham, and primary documents forged by Mark Hofmann purporting to contradict important aspects of official early church history. The Church's positions regarding homosexuality, women,[o] and black people have all been publicly debated during this timeframe.
In August 2018, the church's president, Russell M. Nelson, asked members of the church and others to cease using the terms "LDS", "Mormon", and "Mormonism" to refer to the church, its membership, or its belief system, and instead to call the church by its full and official name.
The LDS Church shares various teachings with other branches of Christianity. These include a belief in the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, and his atonement and resurrection. LDS theology also includes belief in the doctrine of salvation through Jesus alone, restorationism, millennialism, continuationism, conditional substitutionary atonement or penal substitution, and a form of apostolic succession. The practices of baptism by immersion, the eucharist,[p] and Sabbath observance are also held in common.[q]
Nevertheless, the LDS Church differs from other churches within contemporary Christianity in other ways. Differences between the LDS Church and most of traditional Christianity include disagreement about the nature of God, belief in a theory of human salvation that includes three heavens,[r] a doctrine of exaltation which includes the ability of humans to become gods and goddesses in the afterlife, a belief in continuing revelation and an open scriptural canon, and unique ceremonies performed privately in temples, such as the endowment and sealing ceremonies. A number of major Christian denominations view the LDS Church as standing apart from creedal Christianity. However, Church members self-identify as Christians.
The faith itself views other modern Christian faiths as having departed from true Christianity via a general apostasy and maintains that it is a restoration of 1st-century Christianity and the only true and authorized Christian church. Church leaders assert it is the only true church and that other churches do not have the authority to act in Jesus' name.
LDS Church theology includes the belief in a Godhead composed of God the Father, his son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as three separate Persons who share a unity of purpose or will; however, they are viewed as three distinct Beings making one Godhead. This is in contrast with the predominant Christian view, which holds that God is a Trinity of three separate persons in one essence. The beliefs of the church also include the belief that God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, are separate beings with bodies of flesh and bone, while the Holy Ghost lacks such a physical body.
According to these doctrines, every human spirit is a spiritual child of a Heavenly Father, and each has the potential to continue to learn, grow, and progress in the eternities, eventually achieving eternal life,[s] which is to become one with God in the same way that Jesus Christ is one with the Father, thus allowing the children of God to become divine beings - that is, gods - themselves. This view on the doctrine of theosis is also referred to as becoming a "joint-heir with Christ". The process by which this is accomplished is called exaltation, a doctrine which includes the reunification of the mortal family after the resurrection and the ability to have spirit children in the afterlife and inherit a portion of God's kingdom. To obtain this state of godhood, the church teaches that one must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of his or her sins, strive to keep the commandments faithfully, and participate in a sequence of ceremonial covenants called ordinances, which include baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the endowment, and celestial marriage.
This latter ordinance, known as a sealing ceremony, reflects a singular LDS view with respect to families. According to LDS Church theology, men and women may be sealed to one another so that their marital bond continues into the eternities. Children may also be sealed to their biological or adoptive parents to form permanent familial bonds, thus allowing all immediate and extended family relations to endure past death. The most significant LDS ordinances may be performed via proxy in behalf of those who have died, such as baptism for the dead. The church teaches that all will have the opportunity to hear and accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings that come to those who faithfully adhere to it, in this life or the next.
The LDS Church teaches that, subsequent to the death of Jesus and his original apostles, his church, along with the authority to act in Jesus Christ's name and the church's attendant spiritual gifts, were lost, due to a combination of external persecutions and internal heresies. The restoration--as represented by the church began by Joseph Smith--refers to a return of the authentic priesthood power, spiritual gifts, ordinances, living prophets and revelation of the primitive Church of Christ. This restoration is associated with a number of events which are understood to have been necessary to re-establish the early Christian church found in the New Testament, and to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus. In particular, Latter-day Saints believe that angels appeared to Joseph Smith and others and bestowed various priesthood authorities on them.
The church is led by a president, who is considered a "prophet, seer, and revelator." He is considered the only person who is authorized to receive revelation from God on behalf of the whole world or entire church. As such, the church teaches that he is essentially infallible when speaking on behalf of God - although the exact circumstances when his pronouncements should be considered authoritative are debated within the Church. In any case, modern declarations with broad doctrinal implications are often issued by joint statement of the First Presidency;[t] they may be joined by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as well.[u]
The LDS Church asks its members to adhere to a dietary code called the Word of Wisdom, in which they abstain from the consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco. The Word of Wisdom also encourages the consumption of herbs, moderate consumption of meat, and consumption of grains.
When Joseph Smith published the Word of Wisdom in 1833 it was considered only advice; violation did not restrict church membership. During the 1890s, though, church leaders started emphasizing the Word of Wisdom more. In 1921, church president Heber J. Grant made obeying the Word of Wisdom a requirement to enter the temple. From that time, Church leadership has emphasized the forbidding of coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol, but not the other guidelines concerning meat, grains, and herbs. Also prohibited are illegal drugs and "harmful substances."
Church members are expected to follow a moral code called the law of chastity, which prohibits adultery, homosexual behavior, and sexual relations before or outside of marriage. As part of the law of chastity, the church strongly opposes pornography, and considers masturbation an immoral act.
Church members are expected to donate one-tenth of their income to support the operations of the church, including construction of temples, meetinghouses, and other buildings, and other church uses. Members are also encouraged to abstain from food and drink on the first Sunday of each month for at least two consecutive meals. They donate at least the cost of the two skipped meals as a fast offering, which the church uses to assist the poor and needy and expand its humanitarian efforts.
All able LDS young men are expected to serve a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. Missionaries do not choose where they serve or the language in which they will proselytize, and are expected to fund their missions themselves or with the aid of their families. Prospective male missionaries must be at least 18 years old and no older than 25, not yet married, have completed secondary school, and meet certain criteria for physical fitness and spiritual worthiness. Missionary service is not compulsory, nor is it required for young men to retain their church membership.
Unmarried women 19 years and older may also serve as missionaries, generally for a term of 18 months. However, the LDS Church emphasizes that women are not under the same expectation to serve as male members are, and may serve solely as a personal decision. There is no maximum age for missionary service for women.
Retired couples are also encouraged to serve missions, and may serve 6-, 12-, 18-, or 23-month terms. Unlike younger missionaries, these senior missionaries may serve in non-proselytizing capacities such as humanitarian aid workers or family history specialists. Other men and women who desire to serve a mission, but may not be able to perform full-time service in another state or country due to health issues, may serve in a non-proselyting mission. They might assist at Temple Square in Salt Lake City or aid in the seminary system in schools.
All proselyting missionaries are organized geographically into administrative areas called missions. The efforts in each mission are directed by an older adult male mission president. As of July 2020, there were 407 missions of the church.
Meetings for worship and study are held at meetinghouses, which are typically utilitarian in character. The main focus of Sunday worship is the Sacrament meeting, where the sacrament is passed to Church members; sacrament meetings also include prayers, singing of hymns by the congregation or choir, and impromptu or planned sermons by Church laity. Also included in weekly meetings are times for Sunday School, or separate instructional meetings based on age and gender, including Relief Society for adult women.
Church congregations are organized geographically. Members are generally expected to attend the congregation with their assigned geographical area; however, some geographical areas also provide separate congregations for young single adults,[v] older single adults,[w] or for speakers of alternate languages. For Sunday services, the church is grouped into either larger[x] congregations known as wards, or smaller congregations known as branches. Regional church organizations, encompassing multiple congregations, include stakes, missions, districts, and areas.
Additional meetings are also held at the meetinghouse. Church officers may conduct leadership meetings or host training sessions and classes. The ward or branch community may schedule social activities at the meetinghouse, including dances, dinners, holiday parties and musical presentations. The church's Young Men and Young Women organizations meet at the meetinghouse once a week, where the youth participate in activities. In 2020, the church implemented a new initiative for children and youth worldwide, which replaced all other programs as of January 1 of that year.
In LDS theology, a temple is considered to be a holy building, dedicated to be a "House of the Lord". In temples, church members participate in ceremonies that are considered the most sacred in the church, including marriage,[y] and an endowment ceremony that includes washing and anointing, receiving a temple garment, and making covenants with God. Baptisms for the dead[z] are performed in the temples as well.
Temples are considered by church members to be the most sacred structures on earth. Operating temples are not open to the public - only church members who pass periodic interviews with ecclesiastical leaders are permitted to enter. Church members generally do not share details about temple ordinances with outsiders, or even converse about them outside the temple itself. As of April 2021, there are 160 operating temples located throughout the world.
The theology of the LDS Church consists of a combination of biblical doctrines with modern revelations and other commentary by LDS leaders, particularly Joseph Smith. The most authoritative sources of theology are the faith's canon of four religious texts, called the "standard works". Included in the standard works are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
The Book of Mormon is a foundational sacred book for the Church; the term "Mormon" or "Mormonism" comes from the book itself. The LDS Church teaches that the Angel Moroni told Smith about golden plates containing the record, guided him to find them buried in the Hill Cumorah, and provided him the means of translating them from Reformed Egyptian. It claims to give a history of former inhabitants of the American continent. The Book of Mormon is very important to modern Latter-day Saints, who consider it the world's most perfect text.
The Bible, also part of the church's canon, is believed to be the word of God - subject to an acknowledgement that its translation may be incorrect, or that authoritative sections may have been lost over the centuries. Most often, the church uses the Authorized King James Version. Two extended portions of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible have been canonized and are thus considered authoritative.[aa] Other revelations from Smith are found in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the Pearl of Great Price.
Another source of authoritative doctrine is the pronouncements of the current Apostles and members of the First Presidency. The church teaches that the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles are prophets and that their teachings are generally given under inspiration from God through the Holy Spirit. Members of the church regularly acknowledge them formally as prophets, seers, and revelators ;[ab] this is done publicly twice a year at the church's worldwide general conference.
In addition to doctrine given by the Church as a whole, individual members of the church believe that they can also receive personal revelation from God in conducting their lives, and in revealing truth to them, especially about spiritual matters.
The church teaches that it is a continuation of the Church of Christ established in 1830 by Joseph Smith. This original church underwent several name changes during the 1830s, being called the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of God, and then in 1834, the name was officially changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. In April 1838, the name was officially changed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. After Smith died, Brigham Young and the largest body of Smith's followers incorporated the LDS Church in 1851 by legislation of the State of Deseret under the name "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", which included a hyphenated "Latter-day" and a British-style lower-case d.
Common informal names for the church include the LDS Church, the Latter-day Saints, and the Mormons. The term Mormon Church is in common use, but the church began discouraging its use in the late 20th century. The church requests that the official name be used when possible or, if necessary, shortened to "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ". In August 2018, church president Russell M. Nelson asked members of the church and others to cease using the terms "LDS", "Mormon", and "Mormonism" to refer to the church, its membership, or its belief system, and instead to call the church by its full and official name. Subsequent to this announcement, the church's premier vocal ensemble, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was officially renamed and became the "Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square". Reaction to the name change policy has been mixed.
In 1887, the LDS Church was legally dissolved in the United States by the Edmunds-Tucker Act because of the church's practice of polygamy. For the next century, the church as a whole operated as an unincorporated entity. During that time, tax-exempt corporations of the LDS Church included the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a corporation sole used to manage nonecclesiastical real estate and other holdings; and the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which governed temples and other sacred buildings. By 2021, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop and Corporation of the President had been merged into one corporate entity, legally named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS Church is organized in a hierarchical priesthood structure administered by men. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus leads the church through revelation and has chosen a single man, called "the Prophet" or President of the Church, as his spokesman on the earth. While there have been exceptions in the past, he and two counselors are normally ordained apostles and form the First Presidency, the presiding body of the church; twelve other apostles form the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When a president dies, his successor is invariably the most senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve,[ac] who reconstitutes a new First Presidency. Following the death of church president Thomas S. Monson on January 2, 2018, senior apostle Russell M. Nelson was announced as president on January 16. These men, and the other male members of the church-wide leadership [ad] are called general authorities. They exercise both ecclesiastical and administrative leadership over the church and direct the efforts of regional leaders down to the local level. General authorities and mission presidents work full-time for the Church, and typically receive stipends from church funds or investments.
Twice each year,[ae] general authorities address the worldwide church through general conference, which includes four two-hour sessions over the course of two days. General conference sessions are translated into as many as 80 languages and are broadcast from the 21,000-seat Conference Center in Salt Lake City. In addition to general conference, general authorities speak to church members in local congregations throughout the world; they also frequently speak to youth and young adults in special broadcasts and at the Church Educational System schools, such as Brigham Young University.
At the local level, the church leadership are drawn from the laity and work on a part-time volunteer basis without stipend. Like all members, they are asked to donate a tithe of 10 percent of their income to the church.[af] Members volunteer general custodial work for local church facilities.
All males who are living the standards of the church are generally considered for the priesthood and are ordained to the priesthood as early as age 11. Ordination occurs by a ceremony where hands are laid on the head of the one ordained. The priesthood is divided into an order for young men 11 and up (called the Aaronic priesthood) and an order for men 18 and up (called the Melchizedek priesthood).
Under the leadership of the priesthood hierarchy are five organizations that fill various roles in the church: Relief Society, [ag] the Young Men and Young Women organizations,[ah] Primary,[ai] and Sunday School.[aj] Women serve as presidents and counselors in the presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary, while men serve as presidents and counselors of the Young Men and Sunday School. The church also operates several programs and organizations in the fields of proselytizing, education, and church welfare such as LDS Humanitarian Services. Many of these organizations and programs are coordinated by the Priesthood Correlation Program, which is designed to provide a systematic approach to maintain worldwide consistency, orthodoxy, and control of the church's ordinances, doctrines, organizations, meetings, materials, and other programs and activities.
The church operates a Church Educational System which includes Brigham Young University,[ak] BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, and Ensign College. The church also operates Institutes of Religion near the campuses of many colleges and universities. For high-school aged youth, the church operates a four-year Seminary program, which provides religious classes for students to supplement their secular education. The church also sponsors a low-interest educational loan program known as the Perpetual Education Fund, which provides educational opportunities to students from developing nations.
The church's welfare system, initiated in 1930 during the Great Depression, provides aid to the poor. Leaders ask members to fast once a month and donate the money they would have spent on those meals to help the needy, in what is called a fast offering. Money from the program is used to operate Bishop's storehouses, which package and store food at low cost. Distribution of funds and food is administered by local bishops. The church also distributes money through its LDS Philanthropies division to disaster victims worldwide.
Other church programs and departments include Family Services, which provides assistance with adoption, marital and family counseling, psychotherapy, and addiction counseling; the LDS Church History Department, which collects church history and records; and the Family History Department, which administers the church's large family history efforts, including FamilySearch, the world's largest family history library and organization. Other facilities owned and operated by the Church include the Church History Library and the Granite Mountain Records Vault.
For over 100 years, the church was also a major sponsor of Scouting programs for boys, particularly in the United States. The LDS Church was the largest chartered organization in the Boy Scouts of America, having joined the Boy Scouts of America as its first charter organization in 1913. In 2020, the church ended its relationship with the BSA and began an alternate, religion-centered youth program. Prior to leaving the Scouting program, LDS Scouts made up nearly 20 percent of all enrolled Boy Scouts, more than any other church.
The church has not released church-wide financial statements since 1959. In the absence of official statements, people interested in knowing the church's financial status and behavior, including both members of the church and people outside the church, have attempted to estimate or guess.
In 1997, Time magazine called the LDS Church one of the world's wealthiest churches per capita. In a June 2011 cover story, Newsweek stated that the LDS Church "resembles a sanctified multinational corporation--the General Electric of American religion, with global ambitions and an estimated net worth of $30 billion". Its for-profit, non-profit, and educational subsidiary entities are audited by an independent accounting firm. In addition, the church employs an independent audit department that provides its certification at each annual general conference that church contributions are collected and spent in accordance with church policy.
The church receives significant funds from tithes and fast offerings. According to the church, tithing and fast offering money is devoted to ecclesiastical purposes and not used in for-profit ventures. It has been estimated that the LDS Church received $33 billion in donations from its members in 2010, and that during the 2010s its net worth increased by about $15 billion per year. According to estimates by Bloomberg Businessweek, the LDS Church's net worth was $40 billion as of 2012.
The church's assets are held in a variety of holding companies, subsidiary corporations, and for-profit companies including: Bonneville International, KSL, Deseret Book Company, and holding companies for cattle ranches and farms in at least 12 U.S. States,[al][am] Canada, New Zealand, and Argentina. Also included are banks and insurance companies, hotels and restaurants, real estate development, forestry and mining operations, and transportation and railway companies. The church has also invested in for-profit business and real estate ventures such as City Creek Center.
In December 2019, a whistleblower alleged the church holds over $100 billion in investment funds through its investment management company, Ensign Peak Advisors; that it failed to use the funds for charitable purposes and instead used them in for-profit ventures; and that it misled contributors and the public about the usage and extent of those funds. According to the whistleblower, applicable law requires the funds be used for religious, educational or other charitable purposes for the fund to maintain its tax-exempt status. Other commentators have argued that such expenditures may not be legally required as claimed. In response to the allegations, the church's First Presidency stated that "the Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves," and that "a portion" of funds received by the church are "methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future".
Due to the differences in lifestyle promoted by church doctrine and history, members of the church have developed a distinct culture. Some scholars have even argued that church members form a distinctive ethnic group. It is primarily concentrated in the Intermountain West. Many of the church's more distinctive practices follow from their adherence to the Word of Wisdom, which includes abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea. As a result, areas of the world with a high concentration of LDS members may practice these restrictions societally. They sometimes come into conflict with local retail businesses that serve non-members.
The culture has created substantial business opportunities for independent LDS media. Such communities include cinema, fiction, websites, and graphical art such as photography and paintings. The church owns a chain of bookstores called Deseret Book, which provide a channel through which publications are sold; titles include The Work and the Glory and The Other Side of Heaven. BYU TV, the church-sponsored television station, also airs on several networks. The church also produces several pageants annually depicting various events of the primitive and modern-day church. Its Easter pageant Jesus the Christ has been identified as the "largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world".
The church's official choir, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square was formed in the mid-19th century and performs in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. They have travelled to more than 28 countries, and are considered one of the most famous choirs in the world. The choir has received a Grammy Award, three Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and the National Medal of Arts.
Notable members of the church in the media and arts include: Donny Osmond, an American singer, dancer, and actor; Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game; Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series; and Glenn Beck, a conservative radio host, television producer, and author. Notable productions related to the church[an] include Murder Among the Mormons, a 2021 Netflix documentary; and The Book of Mormon, a big-budget musical about Mormon missionaries that received 9 Tony Awards.
The church and its members consider marriage and family highly important, with emphasis placed on large, traditional families. In 1995, the church's First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", which stresses the importance of the family. The proclamation defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and stated that the family unit is "central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." The document further says that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose," that the father and mother have differing but equal roles in raising children, and that successful marriages and families, founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, can last eternally. The proclamation also promoted the traditional roles of husband and wife as essential to maintaining the strength of the family unit. The proclamation was issued, in part, due to concerns in the United States about traditional family values and same-sex marriages.
LDS Church members are encouraged to set aside one evening a week, typically Monday, to spend together in what is called "Family Home Evening." Family Home Evenings typically consist of gathering as a family to study gospel principles, and participate in family activities. Daily family prayer is also encouraged.
The LDS Church takes no partisan role in politics, stating that it will not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms; allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes; attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to ... or attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader". While the church takes an apolitical approach to candidates, it encourages its members to play an active role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
A 2012 Pew Center on Religion and Public Life survey indicates that 74 percent of U.S. members lean towards the Republican Party. Some liberal members say they feel that they have to defend their worthiness due to political differences.
The official church stance on staying out of politics does not include if there are instances of what church leaders deem to be moral issues, or issues the Church "believes ... directly affect [its] interests." It has previously opposed same-sex marriage in California Prop 8, supported a gay rights bill in Salt Lake City which bans discrimination against homosexual persons in housing and employment, opposed gambling, opposed storage of nuclear waste in Utah, and supported the Utah Compact. It also opposed a ballot initiative legalizing medicinal marijuana in Utah, but supported a possible alternative to it.[ao] In 2019 and 2021, the church stated its opposition to the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination in the United States on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but supports alternate legislation that it says would protect both LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.
In the 117th United States Congress, there are 9 LDS Church members, including all six members of Utah's congressional delegation; all are Republicans. Utah's current governor, Spencer Cox, is also a church member, as are supermajorities[ap] in both houses of the Utah State Legislature. Church member and current U.S. Senator Mitt Romney was the Republican Party's nominee in the U.S. 2012 presidential election. Jon Huntsman Jr. sought the Republican nomination until his withdrawal in early 2012.
In 2016, following Donald Trump's proposed Muslim travel ban, many LDS Church members - who are one of the most consistently Republican voting groups - formed a significant faction of traditional Republican voters skeptical of Trump, with just 11% support in Utah. These voters saw parallels between Trump's anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rhetoric and the past persecution of Mormons in the United States. However, by January 2018, many church members in Utah had expressed their support for Trump, in particular his policies on land and anti-environmentalism. His approval rating was 61%, higher than any other religious group.
|Pew 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study||LDS (U.S.)||U.S. Avg.|
|Divorced or separated||7%||11%|
|Have children under 18||41%||31%|
|Attendance at religious services (weekly or more)||77%||40%|
|Pew Recearch Center 2007 Race, Ethnicity||LDS (U.S.)||U.S. Avg.|
The church reports a worldwide membership of 16 million; this figure is based on the church's own membership records.[aq] According to these statistics, the church is the fourth largest religious body in the United States. Although the church does not release attendance figures to the public, researchers estimate that attendance at weekly LDS worship services globally is around 4 million. Members living in the U.S. and Canada constitute 46 percent of membership, Latin America 38 percent, and members in the rest of the world 16 percent. The 2012 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that approximately 2 percent of the U.S. adult population self-identified as Mormon.
LDS Church membership is concentrated geographically in the Intermountain West, in a specific region known as the Mormon corridor. The Mormon corridor was originally settled by Mormon pioneers in the mid- to late- 1800s. LDS Church influence in the area -- both cultural and political -- is considered relatively strong.
The church experienced rapid numerical growth in the 20th century, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, however, Church membership growth has slowed, especially since around 2012.
After interviewing and polling thousands of youth across America, evangelical statistician Christian Smith wrote in 2005, "in general comparisons among major U.S. religious traditions using a variety of sociological measures of religious vitality and salience ... it is Mormon teenagers who are sociologically faring the best." Smith found that LDS teenagers were the most or among the most religious of all denominations studied. They were more likely to pray, attend Church weekly and feel connected to their congregation, participate in religious activities at home, have had spiritual experiences, and feel that religion is important in their lives. Additionally, Smith concluded that the religiosity of teens was positively correlated with measures of emotional well-being, community involvement, moral reasoning and quality of family relationships - and negatively correlated with risky behaviors and sexual activity. Sociologists at BYU have specifically found that "active LDS high school students engage in less delinquency, do better in school and have stronger self-esteem than less-active students. In addition, active LDS young adults have stronger marriages, more education, higher occupational status, and stronger emotional health than those less active."
In the United States, church members tend to be more highly educated than the general population. As of 2012, 54 percent of LDS men and 44 percent of women have postsecondary education; the general American population stands at 37 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
The LDS Church provides worldwide humanitarian service. The church's welfare and humanitarian efforts are coordinated by LDS Philanthropies (LDSP), a church department under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric. Welfare efforts, originally initiated during the Great Depression, provide aid for the poor, financed by donations from church members. LDSP is also responsible for philanthropic[ar] donations to the LDS Church and other affiliated charities, such as the Church History Library, the Church Educational System (and its subsidiary organizations), the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and funds for LDS missionaries. Donations are also used to operate bishop's storehouses, which package and store food for the poor at low cost, and provide other local services. As of 2016, the Church reports it has spent a total of $1.2 billion on humanitarian aid over the last 30 years.
The church also distributes money and aid to disaster victims worldwide. In 2005, the church partnered with Catholic Relief Services to provide aid to Niger. In 2010, it partnered with Islamic Relief to help victims of flooding in Pakistan. LDS Charities increased food production during the COVID-19 pandemic and donated healthcare supplies to 16 countries affected by the crisis.
The LDS Church has been subject to criticism and sometimes discrimination since its early years in New York and Pennsylvania. In the late 1820s, criticism centered on the claim by Joseph Smith to have been led to a set of gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was reputedly translated.
In the 1830s, the church was criticized for Smith's handling of a banking failure in Kirtland, Ohio. After the Mormons migrated west, there was fear and suspicion about the LDS Church's political and military power in Missouri, culminating in the 1838 Mormon War and the Mormon Extermination Order (Missouri Executive Order 44) by Governor Lilburn Boggs. In the 1840s, criticism of the church included its theocratic aspirations in Nauvoo, Illinois. Criticism of the practice of plural marriage and other doctrines taught by Smith were published in the Nauvoo Expositor. Opposition led to a series of events culminating in the death of Smith and his brother while jailed in 1844.
As the church began openly practicing plural marriage under Brigham Young during the second half of the 19th century, the church became the target of nationwide criticism for that practice, as well as for the church's theocratic aspirations in the Utah Territory. Young introduced policies in 1852 that discriminated against black men and women of African descent which were not reversed until 1978. Beginning in 1857, the church also came under significant media criticism after the Mountain Meadows massacre in southern Utah.
Academic critics have questioned the legitimacy of Smith as a prophet as well as the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon and various points of criticism of the Book of Abraham. Criticism also includes claims of historical revisionism, homophobia, racism, and sexist policies. Notable 20th-century critics include Jerald and Sandra Tanner and historian Fawn Brodie.
The church's views on sexual minorities have also received criticism such as its 2008 requests by top leaders to adherents to donate time and money in the campaign for California's Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage which sparked heated debate and protest by gay-rights organizations and others. In 2009 the church expressed support for a Salt Lake City ordinance protecting gay and lesbian people against discrimination in employment and housing, but wanted an exception for religious institutions from this ordinance. Further controversy resulted when, in November 2015, the church adopted a policy considering those in same-sex unions apostates, and barring their children from receiving blessings or being baptized under most circumstances. In April 2019, the church reversed this policy, citing efforts to be more accepting to people of all backgrounds.
Jewish groups, including the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, criticized the LDS Church in 1995 after discovering that vicarious baptisms for the dead for victims of the Holocaust had been performed by members of the church. After that criticism, church leaders put a policy in place to stop the practice, with an exception for baptisms specifically requested or approved by victims' relatives. Jewish organizations again criticized the church in 2002, 2004, 2008, and 2012 stating that the church failed to honor the 1995 agreement. The LDS Church says it has put institutional safeguards in place to avoid the submission of the names of Holocaust victims not related to Mormon members, but that the sheer number of names submitted makes policing the database of names impractical.
The church's lack of transparency about its finances has drawn criticism from commentators who consider the church's practices too secretive. The disclosure of the $100 billion church-controlled fund has led to criticism that the church's wealth may be excessive. Critical commentators have asserted that the Church uses its corporate structure to "optimize its asset and capital management by moving money and assets between [its] tax-exempt and regular businesses as loans, donations or investments."[as]
Mormon apologetics organizations, such as the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), have been founded to counter criticisms of the church and its leaders. Most of the apologetic work focuses on providing and discussing evidence supporting the claims of Smith and the Book of Mormon. Scholars and authors such as Hugh Nibley, Daniel C. Peterson, John Gee, John L. Sorenson, Terryl Givens, and James E. Talmage are well-known apologists within the church.
On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became its first president.
[N]othing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration.
Did Joseph Smith ordain any man to take his place. He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum, but Hyrum fell a martyr before Joseph did. If Hyrum had lived he would have acted for Joseph.
The doctrines of the church are derived from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants (recognized revelations to church leaders). Brigham Young and his position on polygamy are rejected; there are other beliefs and practices they do not share with the Mormons, including the ordination of women.
The great Mormon migration of 1846-1847 was but one step in the LDS' quest for religious freedom and growth.
If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.
Once countries reach a moderately high level of economic development (HDI of .8+), these three groups [including Mormonism] experience very little to no growth. Whether that is due to modernization generally or social safety nets specifically, we cannot say. Future research should attempt to discern which of the two (it may be both) actually causes the secular transition.
The problem took another turn when Joseph Smith's papyri, which had been missing and presumed lost for eighty to ninety years, resurfaced in 1967 and were examined and translated by Egyptologists. One fragment of papyrus was identified as the ostensible source of the Book of Abraham, but it bore no relationship to the Book of Abraham either in content or subject matter.See also Dialogue Topic Pages #5: The Book of Abraham and sources located there.
The LDS Church has adopted the King James Version as its official English-language Bible. In some ways this is ironic because both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith clearly taught that the King James Version was imperfect, thus necessitating not only the restoration of certain doctrines through revelation and additional scripture but also an inspired revision of the biblical text itself. For many years Smith worked on what he called a new "translation" of the bible. He left many chapters and even whole books intact, while making extensive changes and lengthy additions to others, most notably Genesis. In spite of acknowledging problems with transmission and translation, Mormons have always considered the Bible to be a faithful and revealed record of God's dealings with humanity.
The atonement gives everyone eternal life. But it only frees people from their own personal sins if they do their part; repenting of their sins and living good lives, as God has ordered.
By speaking in terms of satisfying the demands of justice, the Book of Mormon leans toward the penal substitution side of Calvinism. ...While Unitarians, Universalists, and New Divinity Calvinists systematically rejected the idea that the atonement was a lash-for-lash sacrifice, the Book of Mormon not only refuses to deny it, but subtly implies it.
Then he taught and testified that even as Christ is risen from the dead, so will all men come forth from the grave; each will then be judged according to his works, and each will receive his appointed place in the mansions which are prepared. In that resurrected state, Paul said, there are 'celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another' (JST, 1 Cor. 15:40)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all resurrected and perfected mortals become gods. [...] Those who achieve this state of perfection will become joint-heirs with Christ. [...] Latter-day Saints believe that those who become gods will have the opportunity to [...] add further offspring to the eternal family.
After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. ... The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost. Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth.
Observant Mormons... adhere to the "law of chastity," meaning that they engage in no premarital or extramarital sexual relations and confine sex only to monogamous heterosexual marriages.
The First Presidency has stated: 'There are worthy individuals who desire to serve but do not qualify for the physical, mental, or emotional challenges of a mission. We ask stake presidents and bishops to express love and appreciation to these individuals and to honorably excuse them from full-time missionary labors.' In such cases, service missions can be a great blessing, allowing you to live at home and receive appropriate medical care while growing and maturing in the service of the Lord. Talk to your bishop or branch president for more information on Church service missions
It is proposed that we sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.For past sustainings, see also: Search - "The Sustaining of Church Officers".
Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge.
In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts. Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.
Church officials recently wrapped up a corporate merger they had announced in 2019, when the well-known "Corporation of the Presiding Bishop" -- used for decades to manage nonecclesiastical real estate and other holdings -- was renamed "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." As 2020 closed, another long-standing church entity, its Corporation of the President, which governed temples and other ecclesiastical buildings, merged into the renamed corporation as of Dec. 31. The Corporation of the President has now ceased to exist, according to filings at the Utah Department of Commerce, the state's keeper of corporate records. The move was in keeping with a series of edicts from Nelson and other top leaders beginning in 2018 intended to reemphasize the full name of the church "and better convey a commitment to follow Jesus Christ."
When the head of their church dies, as Thomas S. Monson did on Tuesday, the next leader is chosen from the top ranks based strictly on seniority.
In 1915, though, and continuing until 1959, the church made an annual public disclosure of its finances. As part of the annual April General Conference, somebody--often the president of the LDS Church or one of his counselors--would inform the assembled congregation of how much money the Church had spent in a variety of categories. In 1959, in the wake of significant deficit spending by the Church and of massive investment losses, the Church ended its detailed public financial disclosure, and instead limited its financial disclosure to the Auditing Department report. As a result of its silence about the details of its finances, members, critics, and the interested public have been left to guess at the Church's wealth and the scope of its charitable spending, among other things.
Harvard University has the country's largest academic endowment at $40.9 billion. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic foundation in the world at $47.8 billion.
Ensign Peak Advisors is exempt as an integrated auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), ... And there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.
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.
The LDS Church did not sign, but has endorsed, the Utah Compact.
One of the larger influences in Utah politics, if not the largest, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The LDS Church, as it's often referred to, frequently voices their opinion on political issues they feel are important or relevant. Since nearly 60% of the state are members of the LDS faith including about 80% of Utah legislators, it's understandable to see that the LDS Church has considerable clout over Utah's political process. Here in Utah we see time and time again how a simple press release or statement from the Church is enough to either urge legislators to support a bill, or have the reverse effect thereby squashing any previous support for a bill.
Their exaggerated fears led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre in August 1857, in which a combined force of 54 Mormons and 300 Ute allies attacked and killed 120 members of a wagon train of California-bound settlers. The massacre was a rallying cry for Mormon opposition throughout the century since it seemed to prove the callous disdain Mormons felt for Gentiles[non-Mormons].
Much of what LDS prophets and leaders have said in the past is often disavowed depending on the contemporary social needs of the LDS church at the time.
LDS ...-sanctioned anti-gay theologies have created cultural climates in which LGBT people within and outside Mormon ... communities have become victims of violence as well as victims of self-loathing, even self-harm.
Early Mormon teachings spoke of black people as inferior, cursed by God and unworthy to serve as clergy. Not until 1978 did the church lift the ban that barred blacks from the priesthood.
Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts. ... In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.
The following letter was sent from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on 29 June 2008: ... We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.