Saturday, December 2, 2006


Mormonism is a term used to describe religious, ideological, and cultural aspects of the various Latter Day Saint churches. The term Mormonism is often used to describe the belief systems of those who believe in the Book of Mormon, a sacred text which Mormons believe was translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1829 from golden plates, described as the sacred writings of the inhabitants of North and South America from approximately 650 BC to 100 AD. In 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and restored the Church of Christ, and the faithful were known amongst themselves as Latter Day Saints. Outside the church, church members have come to be called Mormons because of their belief in the Book of Mormon as the restoration of their religion. As the result of a revelation in 1838, the name to the Church was officially changed to the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".[1] After the death of Joseph Smith, the majority of Smith's followers were led by Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley in the current state of Utah. The remaining saints stayed in Missouri organizing themselves in various sects.

After The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice of plural marriage, more sects emerged in support of the practice usually in the form of polygyny. Mormonism is generally used to describe the main body of the Utah sect exclusively, mainly due to its prominance amongst Latter Day Saint denominations, but the practice of plural marriage is still heavily associated with Mormonism despite the church's efforts to distance itself and the term from polygamy. Other sects embrace or accept the term Mormonism, including the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, other Mormon fundamentalist organizations, Reform Mormonism, and cultural Mormons.

Most adherents of Mormonism may be respectfully called Latter Day Saints (or the hyphenated Latter-day Saints in reference to the largest denomination).[citation needed] Other generally acceptable terms include LDS, Saints, and Mormons. A minority of adherents object to the terms Mormon and Mormonism, since these are terms coined by outsiders to label members of the Church.

Mormon fundamentalism

Mormon fundamentalism is a splinter movement of Mormonism that believes or practices what its adherents consider to be the fundamental aspects of Mormonism. Most often, Mormon fundamentalism represents a break from the dominant brand of Mormonism practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and a return to Mormon doctrines and practices which adherents believe the LDS Church has wrongly abandoned, such as plural marriage, the Law of Consecration, the Adam-God theory, the Patriarchal Priesthood, elements of the Mormon Endowment ritual, and often the exclusion of Blacks from the priesthood. Mormon fundamentalists have formed numerous sects, many of which have established small, cohesive, and isolated communities in areas of the Western United States, as well as Canada and Mexico.

Among the doctrines of Mormon fundamentalism, plural marriage is generally considered the most central and significant doctrine separating fundamentalists from the rest of the Latter Day Saint movement. Plural marriage was practiced by the movement's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., and by some of his successors in some Latter Day Saint denominations, most notably the LDS Church, which continued the practice until about 1890, following intense pressure from the United States government which continued to deny Utah statehood if the LDS church practiced polygamy.

Most Mormon fundamentalists believe that the doctrine of plural marriage is a fundamental element of Mormonism, and that its renunciation by the LDS church was a mistake. Many Mormon fundamentalists have formed polygynous families, and built remote communities in the West, particularly in Utah and Arizona, where they have little contact from the outside world. Other Mormon fundamentalists, though believing in the doctrine of plural marriage, have not actually taken up the practice.

The LDS Church will excommunicate any of its members who advocate or practice plural marriage, or that actively support fundamentalist groups. Although there continues to be a very small minority of LDS Church members who believe in the doctrine without practicing it, the LDS Church prevents any of its members who sympathize with Mormon fundamentalists from attending its temples.

The LDS Church considers the word "Mormon" to apply only to its members, not to members of other sects of the Latter Day Saint movement. They have stated there is no such thing as a "Mormon fundamentalist," nor are there "Mormon sects." They conclude that a correct term to describe these polygamist groups is "polygamist sects." Polygamy: Questions and Answers with the Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on May 31, 2006.