Please Note: The doctrines of the Mormons which have no Scriptural foundation are found in undelined type below.
Mormondoctrine diverges from the orthodoxy of established Christianity, particularly in its polytheism, in affirming that God has evolved from man and that men might evolve into gods, that the Persons of the Trinity are distinct beings, and that human souls have pre-existed. Mormonsaccept that Christ came to earth so that all might be saved and raised from the dead but maintain that a person's future is determined by his or her own actions. Justification is by faith and obedience to the ordinances of the church, repentance, Baptism by immersion, and laying on of hands for the Spirit gifts (including prophecy, revelation, and speaking in tongues).
The Mormonsbelieve that faithful members of the church will inherit eternal life as gods, and even those who had rejected God's law would live in glory. Mormonsbelieve that the return of Christ to earth will lead to the first resurrection and the millennium, the main activity of which will be "temple work," especially Baptism on behalf of the dead. After the millennium and second resurrection, the earth will become a celestial sphere and all people will be assigned to the eternal kingdoms.
Mormonsregard the Christian churches as apostate; lacking revelations, miracles, and Spirit gifts; and maintaining corrupt rituals, priesthoods, and teachings. Smith came to restore the institutions of the church and God's law in society. Although calling people to repent, Smith's creed reflected contemporary optimism in emphasising man's inherent goodness and limitless potential for progress. Smith tempered millennialism by calling the faithful to gather and labour to build Zion as a new social order. The successive presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have continued to claim divine inspiration.
Institutions and practices of the Mormons.
The Mormonseliminate most distinctions between the priesthood and laity. At the age of 12, all worthy males become deacons in the Aaronic priesthood; they become teachers when 14 years old and priests at the age of 16. About two years later they may enter the Melchizedek priesthood as elders and may be called upon for 18 months of missionary work. A Mormonman may afterward become a "seventy" (a member of a larger priesthood quorum composed of 70 members) and ultimately a high priest in the church's First Quorum of Seventy. Each rank of Mormonboys and men is organised into a quorum and has its own activities. Young men between the ages of 18 and 20 come under strong pressure from the Mormoncommunity to temporarily serve abroad as missionaries.
Adult Baptism, signifying repentance and obedience, has acquired additional importance as a ritual that may be undertaken by a proxy for the salvation of those who died without knowledge of the truth. The Mormons' interest in genealogy proceeds from their concern to save dead ancestors. Baptism for the dead, endowment, and sealing (which may also be undertaken by proxy for the dead) are secret but essential ceremonies that take place in the temple. At endowment, the person is ritually washed, anointed with oil, and dressed in temple garments. Initiates witness a dramatic performance of the story of creation, learn secret passwords and grips, and receive a secret name. The sealing ceremony, which was of special importance in the period when Mormons practised polygamy, seals Mormon men and women in marriage for eternity. Although committed to millennialism and Spirit gifts, Mormonsengage in worldly pursuits, business, and politics. Despite prohibitions (on alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee) and a vigorous work ethic, Mormonism is not ascetic; recreation, sport, and education are positive values. The positive attitude toward recreation, together with the emphasis on order and moral integrity, has been of great importance to the Mormons.
Structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The First Presidency (church president and two councillors), the Council of the Twelve, the First Quorum of Seventy (and its presidency, concerned especially with missions), and the presiding bishop and two councillors (who control the Aaronic priesthood) constitute the "General Authorities" of the church. They are "sustained in office" by the regular and now ritualised vote of confidence of the semi-annual General Conference, which is open to all Mormons.
At the local level, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are divided into "stakes" of, on the average, 4,000 to 5,000 members under stake presidents; and wards, each of a few hundred members, under a bishop. The life of the individual member is closely regulated by these local units, through which the religious, economic, and social activities, tithing, and the operation of the church's elaborate welfare plan are organised. The missionary work undertaken by many young men and women has helped make Mormonism one of the fastest growing religions in the Western Hemisphere.
Reorganised Church and other Mormon groups.
The Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints holds firmly to the Book of Mormonbut rejects the evolutionary conceptions of deity and the polytheism implicit in it, the new covenant of celestial marriage, Baptism on behalf of the dead, polygamy, and tithing. Secret ceremonies are not performed in the Kirtland (Ohio) Temple, to which the Reorganised Church gained legal title in 1890, and the Book of Abraham is not accepted as of divine origin. The church's presidents continue to be lineal descendants of Smith, beginning with Joseph Smith (1832-1914).
Some Mormonsplinter groups adopted communistic practices. The followers of Granville Hedrick took as their mission the building of Smith's projected temple in Missouri and acquired part of the "Temple Lot" in Independence, Mo. After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced plural marriage in 1890, some Mormon groups in Utah and in northern Arizona continued the practice, but they remained secret -- Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica.