Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of
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Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of,name of the church founded (1830) at Fayette, N.Y., by Joseph SmithSmith, Joseph,
1805–44, American Mormon leader, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, b. Sharon, Vt. When he was a boy his family moved to Palmyra, N.Y., where he experienced the poverty and hardships of life on a rough frontier.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 B.C. to c.A.D. 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 WilliamDoniphan, Alexander William
, 1808–87, American lawyer and soldier, b. Mason co., Ky. He began (1830) to practice law in Lexington, Mo., and served three terms in the state legislature, becoming involved in the Mormon issue.
..... Click the link for more information. ).
Violence in Illinois
The Mormons sought a new Zion in the Illinois town of NauvooNauvoo
, historic city (1990 pop. 1,108), Hancock co., W Ill., on heights overlooking the Mississippi River; inc. 1841. Situated in an agricultural area where fruit, corn, and soybeans are grown, the city produces wine and cheese, but tourism is the major industry.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 StrangStrang, James Jesse
, 1813–56, American Mormon leader, b. Cayuga co., N.Y. A lawyer and teacher, he migrated in 1843 to Wisconsin, was converted to Mormonism, and at the death of Joseph Smith (1844) claimed the succession, saying that he had had a vision in which God had
..... Click the link for more information. , Lyman Wight, and Brigham YoungYoung, Brigham
, 1801–77, American religious leader, early head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, b. Whitingham, Vt. Brigham Young was perhaps the greatest molder of Mormonism, his influence having a greater effect even than that of the church's founder,
..... Click the link for more information. , 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 ChristCommunity of Christ,
formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
religious group that regards itself as the successor of the church founded by Joseph Smith.
..... Click the link for more information. ).
In July, 1847, the first settlers reached what is now Salt Lake CitySalt Lake City,
city (1990 pop. 159,936), alt. c.4,330 ft (1,320 m), state capital and seat of Salt Lake co., N central Utah, on the Jordan River and near the Great Salt Lake, at the foot of the Wasatch Range; inc. 1851.
..... Click the link for more information. 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 WarUtah War,
in U.S. history, conflict between Mormons and the U.S. government. In the spring of 1857, President James Buchanan appointed a non-Mormon, Alfred Cumming, as governor of the Utah Territory, replacing Brigham Young, and dispatched troops to enforce the order.
..... Click the link for more information. 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 MeadowsMountain Meadows,
small valley in extreme SW Utah, where in 1857 a party of some 140 emigrants bound for California were massacred. It was a period when friction between Mormons and non-Mormons was acute, with Mormons bitterly resenting the coming of U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. 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 RomneyRomney, Mitt
(Willard Mitt Romney) , 1947–, American politician and business executive, b. Detroit, Mich., grad. Brigham Young Univ. (B.A., 1971), Harvard (M.B.A., 1975, J.D., 1975). Son of George W. Romney, he worked for Bain and Co.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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), P. C. Gutjahr (2012), and L. T. Ulrich (2017); D. H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (5 vol., 1992).