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social sciences

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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)  
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Like other Christians, Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God and the virgin Mary. They believe that he lived a sinless life, and that his Crucifixion was an atonement for the sins of humanity. They also believe in Jesus's literal bodily resurrection, and that he currently sits on the right hand of God the Father, with whom he is united, but does not literally share his "substance."

The Church differs from other Christian denominations by its practice of temple ceremonies, including baptism for the dead and the Endowment (symbolic acts and gestures, among which are words and tokens needed to pass by angels guarding the way to heaven), its doctrinal views on the Godhead, and its former practice of plural marriage.

Sponsor Message.

A central belief of Mormonism is the primacy of the family. The Church in 1995 declared that "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

An unapologetically patriarchal organization, the Church believes that "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

The Mormon vision of an eternal patriarchal family, whose members are reunited in the Kingdom of Glory, leads to such related doctrines as the baptism of the dead, in which believers perform proxy baptisms on behalf of their ancestors. The Church's famous commitment to genealogical history is directly related to this practice. The primary purpose of "family history work" is to obtain names and other genealogical information so that temple ordinances can be performed on behalf of deceased ancestors.

Proselytizing and Tithing

The Church's success is probably due to its emphasis on proselytizing and on tithing. True to his upbringing in a center of evangelical zeal, Smith gave missionary work an important place in his new religion. As early as 1830, missionaries began traveling to proselytize.

As the Church grew over the next century, it not only gained millions of members in nations around the world, but also amassed a large fortune, due in part to the practice of "tithing," where members donate ten percent of their income to the Church. Its inculcation of qualities such as self-reliance and frugality, and its celebration of a pioneering tradition, also has undoubtedly contributed to its wealth.

Today, young men between the ages of 19 and 25 who meet minimum standards of worthiness and preparation are encouraged to serve a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. Women who desire to serve a mission must be at least 21 and generally serve 18-month missions. Retired married couples are also encouraged to serve missions of from three to 36 months.

Currently, approximately 53,000 proselytizing missionaries are serving throughout the world. In addition, about 3,500 Mormon missionaries are on special assignment, serving as health care specialists, craftsmen, artisans, construction supervisors, agricultural experts, and educators in developing countries.

Discrimination, Harassment, Controversy

In the 1830s, Smith gained many followers, but his new religion also made many enemies. His radical rejection of other Christian sects, his claim to be the leader of the one true church, and the eccentric beliefs of Mormonism, especially the right of men to marry several women (Smith himself had thirty wives), aroused tremendous opposition.

Fleeing harassment in New York, Smith moved his Church, first to Ohio, then to Missouri. In 1838, the governor of Missouri issued a decree, popularly called the "Order of Extermination," declaring that Mormons must be driven from the state. Smith fled once again to Illinois, where he was killed by a mob in 1844.

In 1846, Brigham Young, Smith's successor as head of the LDS Church, took an expedition of pioneering Mormons to the far-off western territory of Utah, hoping to practice their religion there without interference.

Though they sought religious tolerance, the members of the growing church were themselves frequently accused of acts of bigotry and violence, including an 1857 massacre where Mormons killed every man, woman, and older child on a passing Arkansas wagon train, sparing only the youngest children for conversion to the LDS Church.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced plural marriages. However, repeated refusals--six between 1849 and 1887--by the United States Congress to admit Utah into statehood made it clear that as long as polygamy was tolerated in the territory, it would never become a state. In 1890, as the government was about to seize the assets of the Church, the President of the Church received a revelation from God: the "Great Accommodation" that suspended the practice of polygamy. On January 4, 1896, Utah became the 45th state in the union.

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