Mormonism is a term used to describe the religious, ideological and cultural elements of certain branches of the Latter Day Saint movement, and specifically, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
The term derives from the word Mormon, which was originally used as a pejorative term to describe those who believed in the Book of Mormon, a sacred text that adherents believe to be "another testament of Jesus Christ" and testifies of the Bible as part of the religion's canon. Today, Mormonism is improperly used in reference to the LDS Church. The term is only "acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" ; however, several smaller denominations, and sects of Mormon fundamentalism also embrace the term despite opposition by the LDS Church. Most other Latter Day Saint movement denominations reject use of the term in reference to their faith, and such usage is now rare even though the term was used in the past.
The Articles of Faith are as follows:
The publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, in Palmyra, New York, aroused great animosity among Protestants. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is holy scripture and, as another testament of Jesus Christ, a companion to the Bible. Some of the Mormon practices and political clout in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois also contributed to early animosity.
The church has joined with other Christian denominations in political operations, such as conducting service and humanitarian operations worldwide and opposing same-sex marriages. However, doctrinal conflicts between Mormonism and other Christian denominations remain. Mormonism does not accept the baptism of any other Christian church and rejects the apostolic succession of those churches that claim its existence. Many Christian denominations have acknowledged that Mormonism does not share their apostolic Christian tradition and have also declared Mormon baptisms to be invalid.
Today, the major differences between Mormonism and other Christian churches include the LDS church's views on the Trinity; the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ; the meaning of salvation, eternal life, "The Gospel," and the afterlife; its temple worship; and its open canon. Mormon cosmology is also substantially different from that of historical Christianity. Given its stance on the Trinity, traditional Christian denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion and most branches of Protestantism consider Mormonism heretical. One recent Pew Research poll shows only 52 percent of Americans believe that Mormonism is a Christian denomination. However, among traditional Christians, more than six in ten said Mormonism and their own religion are very different and 57 respondents out of 1,461--3.9%--associated Mormonism with the word "cult.
Because of the incorporation of many Old Testament ideas into its theology, Mormonism has a historical affinity for Judaism. The beliefs of Mormons sometimes parallel those of Judaism and certain elements of Jewish culture. This is primarily from what are historical and doctrinal connections with Judaism.
Joseph Smith Jr. named the largest Mormon settlement he founded Nauvoo, which means "to be beautiful" in Hebrew. Brigham Young named a tributary of the Great Salt Lake the "Jordan River." The LDS Church created a writing scheme called the Deseret Alphabet, which was based, in part, on Hebrew. Currently, the LDS Church has a Jerusalem Center in Israel, at which some college-aged youth study and learn to appreciate and respect the region.
The LDS church also teaches that its adherents are members of the House of Israel. Patriarchal blessings are received by most individuals in their youth. Among other things, this blessing's purpose is to declare one's lineage; in other words, to which tribe the individual belongs.
Conversely, there has been some controversy involving Jewish groups who see the actions of some elements of Mormonism as offensive. In the 1990s, Jewish groups vocally opposed the LDS practice of baptism for the dead on behalf of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and Jews in general. According to LDS Church general authority Monte J. Brough, "Mormons who baptized 380,000 Holocaust victims posthumously were motivated by love and compassion and did not understand their gesture might offend Jews ... they did not realize that what they intended as a 'Christian act of service' was 'misguided and insensitive.'.
Mormonism has been closely associated in public discourse with polygamy. In the 1830s, Joseph Smith, Jr. instituted a form of polygamy in which one man would have several wives (but not the reverse), referred to as plural marriage, which Brigham Young promoted after the LDS church's move to the Utah Territory. According to his own statements, Joseph Smith, Jr. was more than a little uneasy at facing the institution of plural marriage, and said that he did so only after being warned through subsequent divine revelation that he should begin the practice or "be destroyed" ; however, not all members practiced polygamy.
Upon learning about the practice, mainstream churches and political forces in the United States mounted a vigorous campaign to stamp it out. The United States Congress passed laws criminalizing the practice and dissolved polygamous families, disincorporated the LDS Church, and began seizing church property. A few months after a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the legality of the Federal government's actions to disincorporate the LDS church and force the forfeiture of its property, the church issued its 1890 Manifesto renouncing the practice of polygamy. Today, the LDS Church asserts the time for polygamy has ended, rejects the practice, and excommunicates members who engage in it. In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy."
The 1890 renunciation of polygamy by the LDS Church also led to a number of schisms involving relatively small groups who today describe themselves as Mormon fundamentalists and who still practice polygamy as well as other elements of 19th-century Mormonism that have been rejected or denounced by the LDS Church. These organizations believe that their doctrines and practices remain true to the original teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young.