Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (popularly called Mormons), with more than 5 million members in the United States and more than 6 million in some 200 other countries, is one of the fastest-growing religious communities in the modern world. It cannot be understood apart from its Protestant heritage, however, its unique doctrines have taken it far beyond the Protestant fold, and many would argue, in spite of its name, beyond the Christian community.
   The church grew out of revelations to Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-44), which began in the 1820s near his home at Palmyra, New York. His encounter with God the Father and Jesus Christ led him to a set of golden plates, which, with supernatural help, he was able to translate. The translated material was then published as the Book of Mormon, viewed by Mormons as an additional revelation concerning Jesus Christ and the ancient Hebrew people, who they say lived in the Americas during his ministry.
   The publication of the Book of Mormon and several lesser works that also have scriptural authority (the Doctrines and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), led to the founding of the church. Members believe the church is a restoration of true Christianity, with an apostolic organization that had been lost over the centuries. Temples were organized for weddings and crucial ceremonies that affect the believers' status in heaven.
   The church became quite controversial in the mid-19th century for advocating polygamy, which was abandoned starting in 1890 as a condition for the entry of Utah as a state. Remnants of the teaching survive in the belief that marriage is for not only this life but all eternity. The church continues to place a strong emphasis on family life and on tightly integrated community life, although the original communal economy has long since disappeared.
   The church is led by the First Presidency that includes the President-Prophet, who has the power to receive new revelation and add to the open-ended Doctrines and Covenants. The First Presidency is assisted by the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorum of the Seventy (who oversee the missions of the church), and the Presiding Bishopric (which handles temporal affairs).
   The church has positioned itself as a new form of Christianity that is related to other Christian churches as they are related to Judaism. Many Evangelical Protestants consider the Latter-day Saints to be a non-Christian body and have created organizations to counter its growth.
   Following the martyrdom of its founder in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1844, the majority of the church members moved to Utah and settled the Rocky Mountain region from Idaho to Arizona. As a majority or large minority in a number of western states, the church has achieved a national presence in American politics in the decades since World War II, and with it a reduction in hostility from outsiders.
   Further reading:
   ■ James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1992)
   ■ Francis Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, eds. The New Mormon Challenge (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002)
   ■ Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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