General Information FAQ
1. Who are the Mormons?
The official name of the Mormon Church today is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith founded it at the age of 24, in the state of New York on April 6, 1830. It was originally named the Church of Christ, and then in 1834 the name was changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. In 1838 it received its current name (Doctrine and Covenants, Sec.115:4).
Joseph Smith proclaimed that God Himself had designated the LDS Church as "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" (Doc. & Cov. Sec. 1:30).
The LDS Church claims to have the only true priesthood that is required to act in the name of God. A Prophet/President and his two counselors govern the church. Under them are twelve apostles and a group of men called the Seventies. These are the highest offices in their church.
They have four books of scriptures: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
2. How many Mormons are there?
2008 Deseret News Church Almanac lists USA total as 5,779,316, world total 12,868,606. Most of those outside of the USA are in Latin American countries (see http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/statistical-information).
3. Why are Mormon missionaries coming to my door?
The LDS Church claims to be the "only true church" and the only church with the authority to act in God's name. They do not accept any other church's baptisms. According to their teachings, their baptism is the only one recognized by the Lord. This belief, coupled with their belief in the need for a Mormon temple marriage to gain eternal life, compels them to take their message to the world.
4. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just another Protestant religion?
No, the Mormon Church does not claim to be Protestant. It claims to be a divine restoration of Christ's true church. It therefore rejects the validity of any other church. Its basic beliefs place it outside the standard doctrines of Christianity. Mormonism teaches that the God to whom they pray is but one of a whole series of gods who at one time were mortal then progressed to godhood. The LDS Church teaches that their Heavenly Father was once born as a spirit child of a god and wife who ruled a different world. After maturing as a spirit being he was sent to another world where he was born as a human. There he grew to maturity, married, died, was resurrected, went to heaven, progressed and eventually became the God of our world. He and his resurrected wife continue to have spirit children born to them in their heavenly realm. The Mormon man, accompanied by his wife, who is faithful to his religion, pays his tithe, attends the LDS temple rituals, etc. is hoping to eventually progress to become a god of another world, just like his Heavenly Father did.
5. What is the Book of Mormon?
The Book of Mormon contains the purported stories of three different groups who sailed to the Americas. The Jaredites (Book of Ether) came to the New World at the time of the tower of Babel. The Mulekites came to America from Jerusalem in 586 BC. The major group was the family of Lehi. Two of his sons, Nephi and Laman, became the leaders of the Nephites and Lamanites.
The last battle between the two groups, in 421 AD, wiped out almost all of the Nephites. Moroni, the last surviving Nephite, buried the records of his civilization in the Hill Cumorah. Hundreds of years later, Joseph Smith was directed to the spot by Moroni (some records say Nephi), now a resurrected being who had become an angel. Smith then "translated" the record and published it in 1830 under the title "The Book of Mormon."
6. What is the Doctrine and Covenants?
The Doctrine and Covenants contains 138 sections and two Official Declarations. The first 135 sections contain Joseph Smith's revelations from 1823 to 1844, section 136 is a revelation by President Brigham Young in 1847, section 138 is one by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918. Declaration No. 1 is dated 1890 and is refered to as "The Manifesto" which declared an end to the practice of polygamy. Declaration No. 2 is dated 1978 and declared that "all worthy male members" could now hold the priesthood and participate in the temple ceremonies. This ended the LDS Church priesthood ban on Negroes.
7. What is the Pearl of Great Price?
The Pearl of Great Price contains the following:
1. THE BOOK OF MOSES "An extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet, June 1830February 1831."
2. THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM "A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt."
3. JOSEPH SMITH MATTHEW. "An extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet in 1831: Matthew 23:39 and chapter 24."
4. JOSEPH SMITH HISTORY. "EXTRACTS FROM THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH SMITH, THE PROPHET. History of the Church, Vol.1, Chapters 1-5."
5. THE ARTICLES OF FAITH. A list of 13 specific beliefs of the LDS Church written in 1842.
8. What is the Journal of Discourses?
The Journal of Discourses is a 26 volume compilation of LDS presidents and apostles sermons, covering about 35 years. There were several men who were officially assigned by the LDS Church to record the talks. Volume one of the series contains a letter from the LDS First Presidency (Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards), dated June 1, 1853, authorizing the publishing of the sermons:
(click to enlarge)
Scanned image of letter as it appears in the front of Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1.
This 26 volume set is available on the New Mormon Studies CD-ROM. It is also available on the CD-ROM GospeLink 2001, sold through the LDS Church owned bookstore, Deseret Book. (See their online store at DeseretBook.com)
The Assistant Manager for Deseret Book Company, gave the following endorsement of the Journal of Discourses in a a letter dated June 12, 1963:
In having in your library the 26 volume of the "Journal of Discourses", you have a library containing the sermons of the Presidents and Apostles of the Church. If anyone tells you that the sermons found therein are not recognized by the Church, they know not what they are talking about. (Deseret Book Co. Letter, June 12, 1963)
The Journal of Discourses is listed as an official publication of the LDS Church in the following books:
- Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith, published by the LDS Church, p. 674.
- Deseret News 1989-90 Church Almanac, p. 188, published by a company owned by LDS Church.
The Journal of Discourses is quoted repeatedly in LDS publications and in LDS conference reports. See for example, Doctrines of the Gospel, Student Manual, Religion 231 and 232, published by the LDS Church Educational System, 1986, p.83. See also Ensign Magazine (official publication of the LDS Church) May 1996, Conference talk by James E. Faust, of the First Presidency, p.7.
It is inconsistent of the Mormons to question the accuracy of the Journal of Discourses while the LDS leaders continue to quote from it. They never follow their quote with a disclaimer about the accuracy of the account. This issue only comes up when someone outside of Mormonism quotes something from their leaders that they are embarrassed about. It is a double standard.
9. Where are the Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith used when he translated the Book of Abraham?
Joseph Smith bought a collection of Egyptian mummies and papyrus scrolls in 1835. One of these scrolls became the basis for Smith's Book of Abraham. After his death his wife retained ownership of the artifacts. Since she did not come to Utah with the LDS pioneers the papyri stayed in the Midwest. They eventually were acquired by a museum. The LDS Church acquired the Joseph Smith collection of papyri from the Metropolitan Museum in New York City in 1967. They are now housed at the LDS archives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
10. Why do Mormons only use the King James Version of the Bible?
The eighth LDS Article of Faith states: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." The Mormons believe the Bible has gone through repeated editing that has changed the meaning of the text. Thus they are skeptical of any translation of the Bible. However, they view the King James Version as the least corrupt of the versions available today. They print their own Bible (King James Version) with additional LDS footnotes, dictionary and topical guide. These cross reference to their other books of scripture and provide LDS explanations.
11. Why don't Mormon churches have crosses on them?
Latter-day Saints object to the use of a cross on their buildings and the wearing of the cross. They view the symbolism of the cross as having a pagan origin and that it symbolizes Christ's torture and death, not his resurrection. LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated: "The sectarian world falsely suppose that the climax of his (Christ's) torture and suffering was on the cross -- a view which they keep ever before them by the constant use of the cross as a religious symbol. The fact is that intense and severe as the suffering was on the cross, yet the great pains were endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.555)
12. I'm a strong Christian in my own faith. Why should I care about what the Mormons are doing?
Sooner or later, someone you know is going to join the LDS Church. The LDS Church sends out over 50,000 missionaries who convert over 240,000 people into their church every year. Many of these people were already members of some Christian church before joining Mormonism. You need to be informed on the issues in order to reach out to those who are being deceived.
13. I have heard that there is a lot of archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. Is that true?
It has been almost 170 years since Joseph Smith first published the Book of Mormon. To date, there is not one artifact that can be identified as being made by the people of the Book of Mormon. Also, there is no official map designating the location of any Book of Mormon city. Joseph Smith preserved an example of the supposed writing on the plates. No other sample of such writing has ever been found in the Americas. The Mormons point to the great Mayan ruins to establish that there was at one time a great civilization in southern Mexico and Guatemala. However, the Maya had their own pagan religion and history that has no connection to the supposed Book of Mormon people.
14. If the basis of Mormonism is false, why does it keep growing?
Growth is not necessarily an indication that the claims are true. We have only to look at the rise of the Roman Empire with its pantheon of gods to see another ideology that had even more phenomenal success. Part of Mormonism's growth is due to high birth rates, 50,000 missionaries and media advertisement. It also appeals to many people due to its good family values and moral code. Most converts know very little about its actual theology and history.
15. Is it true that the Tanners recanted everything they've said and returned to the LDS Church?
No, the Tanners are active members of a Christian church in Salt Lake City and have no intentions of ever returning to the LDS Church.
16. Does Mormonism teach that God was once a man on another world and progressed to become God of this world?
Yes, Joseph Smith declared: "God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.345-346). Another one of their leaders coined the phrase: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become" (The Gospel Through the Ages, Hunter, p.105-106). Brigham Young preached: "It appears ridiculous to the world, under their darkened and erroneous traditions, that God has once been a finite being" (Deseret News, Nov. 16, 1859, p. 290). Also see: Does the LDS Church Still Teach That Heavenly Father Was Once a Man?
17. Does Mormonism teach that good Mormons can become Gods of their own worlds?
Yes, one of their leaders wrote: " since mortal beings are the spirit children of Heavenly Parents, as pointed out in the last chapter, the ultimate possibility is for some of them to become exalted to Godhood." (The Gospel Through the Ages, Hunter, p.104) Brigham Young declared: "Intelligent beings are organized to become Gods, even the Sons of God, to dwell in the presence of the Gods" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.245).
18. Does the LDS Church still believe in polygamy?
Yes, the doctrine of polygamy is still in their scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. Mormons are instructed not to practice polygamy during this life but the practice will be permitted in heaven. Today if a Mormon man outlives his first wife (after having a temple marriage) he can marry again in the temple. This would guarantee him two wives in heaven.
19. Is the Book of Mormon a translation of ancient writings? Where are the gold plates?
The Book of Mormon claims to be the record of three groups of people who emigrated from the Old World to the New World long before Columbus. One group of Hebrews supposedly arrived about 600 BC. The scribe for this group wrote: "I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (Book of Mormon, Nephi 1:2). These records were supposedly maintained on gold plates, later buried in the Hill Cumorah (in upstate New York). An angel directed Joseph Smith to their location where he was permitted to unearth them. After Smith finished his translation the plates were returned to the angel.
However, there is no evidence that the Book of Mormon people ever existed. Smith claimed to copy off from the plates a sample of the Nephite writing system. It looks more like a collection of various scripts thrown together upside down, backwards, sideward, etc. with no apparent pattern. There is no evidence that such a script was ever used. In Mexico and Guatemala there are multiple examples of Mayan writings on various buildings and monuments but there are no examples of the type of writing Smith claimed to find.
20. Is it possible to obtain a copy of the original 1830 Book of Mormon?
An original edition of the 1830 Book of Mormon sells for approximately $20,000. Obviously, most people can't afford to buy one. However, we sell two different, modestly priced, photo-reprints of the original 1830 edition. See our book list for the price and ordering information. [Web-editor: Joseph Smith Begins His Work Vol. 1 and 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon. If you have one already see: Original 1830 Book of Mormon Page Numbers With Corresponding 1981 Verses.]
21. We have been asked to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Is this a good thing to do?
Since the Book of Mormon claims to be an historical document it should be examined on that basis to determine its authenticity. Prayer can be used as a part of the process but it is not a sufficient guide. Our own desires and emotions could mislead us (James 4:3). If prayer alone were sufficient to determine truth there would not be thousands of different religions.
22. Does the Book of Mormon teach the doctrines of Mormonism?
No. Many people assume that if they read the Book of Mormon they will get a good idea of LDS beliefs. However, the Book of Mormon teaches one God, not plural gods as in Mormonism. It mentions heaven and hell, not three degrees of glory, no temple marriage or secret temple ceremonies. It does not teach baptism for the dead, pre-existence of man, eternal progression or polygamy (see comparison chart). One of the most objectionable doctrines in the Book of Mormon is its view of skin color. White skin is seen as desirable, dark skin is seen as a mark of God's displeasure (see chart on racial statements). Smith wrote the Book of Mormon in the late 1820's. Over the next fifteen years his doctrines underwent radical changes which are seen in his revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
23. What types of ceremonies are performed in a Mormon temple?
One of the most important tenets of the LDS Church is the necessity of temple ordinances. A Mormon couple who has been married in the temple will be able to continue in the marriage relationship in heaven. The LDS Church teaches that proper priesthood authority is necessary to administer these essential rites. Joseph Smith supposedly restored the original temple ceremony of the Old Testament.
Many people are familiar with the LDS concept of baptism for the dead. But few realize that this is a minor part of the temple experience. Young people usually perform proxy baptisms. Adult Mormons, however, attend the temple to participate in the Endowment Ceremony and to perform marriages for both the living and the dead.
24. What is the Mormon Temple Endowment ceremony?
Before a person serves a full-time mission for the LDS Church or before his/her temple marriage he/she will be required to participate in the Endowment Ceremony (where they will be "endowed" with special knowledge). When an adult Mormon attends the temple he/she only goes through the ceremony once for him/herself. After that, the person will attend the temple on behalf of a dead person of the same sex. The live Mormon stands in the place of a particular dead person and goes through the entire endowment ceremony in that person's name.
The person enters the temple, goes to a locker room, dresses in the temple undergarment covered with a white poncho. He/she will then receive the washing and anointing ritual, performed by members of the same sex. At this point they will be given their new name for eternity (i.e. Paul, Timothy, etc. for men, Rachael, Deborah, etc. for women). The person then dons a white temple dress or shirt and pants (over the special underwear). Each will carry a small bag containing a long piece of white material, gathered in the middle, that will be draped over one shoulder, a white sash, green apron and a hat or veil. These will be put on later in the ceremony. The person then joins a group of several dozen people in the auditorium, men on one side and women on the other. They then watch a film depicting the creation of our world, the fall and expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Then Peter, James and John appear to instruct them in certain handshakes and pass words necessary to gain admittance to the Celestial Kingdom. At the end of the ceremony they are tested on their knowledge by one playing the part of God. After this ceremony the couple will be given a temple marriage ceremony in an adjoining room. These rituals are considered necessary for one to gain the highest level of heaven, exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom.
25. How wealthy is the LDS Church?
Unlike most churches, the LDS Church does not give out a financial statement, even to its own members. However, reporters have collected as much information as possible on the church's assets.
In the book Mormon America: The Power and the Promise we read:
What makes the LDS Church distinctive is not just the amount of money coursing through its congregations each week—though that is also singular for the size of the denomination—but the church's heavy investments in corporate enterprises. The research for this book produced an estimate that its investments in stocks, bonds, and church-controlled businesses were worth $6 billion as of 1997, and that church-owned agricultural and commercial real estate then had a value of an additional $5 billion. Asked for guidance, one insider told us that those figures "do not appear unreasonable." The worth of other categories of assets: U.S. meetinghouses and temples, $12 billion; foreign meetinghouses and temples, $6 billion; schools and miscellaneous, $1 billion. The estimated grand total of LDS assets, by a conservative reckoning, would be $25-30 billion. If assets have appreciated as much as they should have in recent times, the figure could go well beyond that.
Yet another LDS trademark is the system of membership tithing that brings in what we project as offerings of $5.3 billion a year, though one knowledgeable source thought $4.25 billion might be a safer estimate. Stocks and directly owned businesses produce perhaps $600 million more in cash income. The estimated yearly annual revenues total $5.9 billion, or by the more conservative reckoning, just under $5 billion. Per capita, no other religion comes close to such figures. . . . The strict secrecy with which the hierarchy guards the financial facts is unique for a church of this size. Officials refuse to divulge routine information that other religions are happy to provide over the phone to donors or inquirers. (Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, 2007 Revised Edition, Harper One, pp. 117-118)
If the LDS Church were a U.S. corporation, by revenues it would rank around the midpoint number 243 on the Fortune 500 list. (Ibid. p. 127)
26. Do the LDS leaders receive a salary?
The LDS Church boasts of not having a paid clergy. Many of them believe that when a man receives a salary from a particular group it compromises his integrity. LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer explained, "In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no paid ministry, no professional clergy, as is common in other churches."
Even though their leaders on the local level receive no pay for their services, this is not true of their top leadership. Many of the Mormons are not aware that their Prophet, Apostles and Seventies receive a salary. In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we read:
"Because the Church has no professional clergy, it is administered at every level through LAY PARTICIPATION AND LEADERSHIP, and officials other than the General Authorities contribute their time and talents without remuneration. Because the General Authorities are obliged to leave their regular employment for full-time Church service, they receive a modest living allowance provided from income on Church investments." (p.510)
Since the amount paid to the leaders is never divulged one is left to wonder what constitutes a "modest living allowance."
See also: Do Mormon Leaders Receive Financial Support?
27. How do you remove your name from the LDS records?
Go to How to Remove Your Name from the LDS Records
28. Where can I see the original sources you reference?
Most of the sources we reference can be seen in various libraries in Utah:
- University of Utah, Marriott Library, Special Collections (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Utah State Historical Society Library (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, Historical Dept. (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Brigham Young University Library, Special Collections (Provo, UT)
- Utah State University Library, Special Collections (Logan, UT)
A few of the other libraries with significant LDS material are:
- Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif;
- Stanford University Library, Stanford, Calif.;
- Yale University, New Haven, Conn.;
- University of Calif. Bancroft Library, Berkelely, Calif.;
- U.S. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.;
- Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, Ill.;
- Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa;
- Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Ill.;
- Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.;
- Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Mo.;
- Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, Independence, Mo.;
- Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
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