Mormonism, is a new religious movement founded by Joseph Smith in the early 1800's. The official name of the church today is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes shortened to LDS to refer to both the church or its members. Mormonism is one of the few young religions, based on Christianity, along with Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology, to have survived with any significant membership. Their primary holy texts are their denomination specific translation of the Christian Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. 
The church was founded or "organized" on April 6th, 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. and several of his followers in Palmyra, New York. Joseph proclaimed himself as a prophet, claimed he receiving visions and other revelations from God, angels, biblical figures and even claimed to encounter the Devil. Furthermore, Joseph Smith proclaimed that God and Jesus (although this version of the revelation would be changed many times) told him that he had been chosen by God to restore God's "true church" on this earth. This first revelation is usually set in the Spring of 1820, though the initial versions were not written down until 1828 at the earliest.
The Church headquarters are currently located in Salt Lake City, Utah. In that region, the church is popular and influential in the politics.
The church believes they are maintaining the early structure of the Christian church. The leader of the church, currently Thomas S. Monson, is called the church president and is considered to be a prophet. He is assisted by counsellors and apostles.  The church leadership is said to be chosen by God.
Because of their living prophets, Mormons' doctrine has changed over time, including temple ceremonies and the church's policy of denying the priesthood to racial minorities. Most Mormons are unaware of these significant changes.
Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont, to Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, on December 23, 1805. Smith grew up on a series of tenant farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Smith's education consisted of a very limited exposure to the reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is known however that his Father Joseph Sr. was a school teacher. Joseph Smith Jr. claimed to be able to divine for buried treasure and in 1827 appeared in court accused of being an imposter i.e. a fraud.
Smith claimed that he received a vision in 1820 of two shining personages, Jesus and God the Father, who told him that all existing churches were false; this incident is referred to as the "first vision". In 1823, Smith said he was visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him of an ancient record containing God's dealings with the former inhabitants of the American continent. These writings served as the foundation of the Mormon religion, with Joseph Smith as the first prophet.
Brigham Young became the second prophet, or president, of the Mormon church after Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. He led the great migration from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.
Mormons do not rely solely upon the Bible as a basis for their beliefs. According to Mormonism's Articles of Faith, Mormons "believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly" . In fact, Joseph Smith did hazard a retranslation of the Bible. Because Mormons believe in a living prophet and continuing revelation, other official church publications are considered to be part of church doctrine.
Book of Mormon
- Main Article: Book of Mormon
Initially printed in 1830, the Book of Mormon is the primary holy book of Mormonism, though much of the church's structure and rituals are derived from the Doctrine and Covenants, which were written later. The book is similar in style and content to the Bible, but describes God's dealings with the inhabitants of the Americas, the ancestors of Native Americans. It includes the description of Christ's visit to these people after his death and resurrection, as well as the source of the "dark skin" which they received as a curse.
Moroni 10:4 and a foreword to the Book of Mormon contains the promise that readers may pray to God for a confirmation of it's authenticity. This promise is used extensively by Mormons (especially missionaries) in proselytizing.
- "You can know that Mormonism is true [by] praying with a sincere heart and with real intent. "
Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of "revelations" that Joseph received from Jesus Christ. It contains amoung other things instructions for how the church should be run. It was originally called the "Book of Commandments"
A key section is D&C 132 which gives the requirements for Polygamy. Specifically verses 61-65.
Pearl of Great Price
The Pearl of Great Price is a collection of books, including the Articles of Faith, supposed translations from Egyptian papyri and the official Joseph Smith History. These books include some of the most exotic Mormon doctrines, including the plurality of gods, the potential for humans to become gods and a different portrayal of the creation story from the Old Testament book of Genesis.
Other official Mormon publications
Journal of Discourses
The Journal of Discourses (often abbreviated J.D.) is a 26-volume collection of public sermons by early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first editions of the Journal were published in England by George D. Watt, the stenographer of Brigham Young. Publication began in 1854, with the endorsement of the church's First Presidency, and ended in 1886. The Journal is one of the richest sources of early Mormon theology and thinking. It includes 1,438 sermons given by 55 church leaders, including most numerously Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, and George Q. Cannon.
While the J.D. is not considered scripture by the modern church it is still important to it's history.
Holy Bible: Joseph Smith Translation
Joseph Smith also performed a "re-translation" of the King James version of the Bible. Mormon's include these translations as footnotes in their versions of the Bible. In his translation, Smith attempts to clarify contradictory passages to fit more precisely with the Book of Mormon and his other writings.
- "The priesthood is the authority to act in God's name. "
Mormonism differs from most other Christian denominations in that all male adherents older than 12 years are within the priesthood. The priesthood is constituted by various offices and privileges, called keys, that form the Mormon leadership hierarchy. The Melchizedek Priesthood is considered to be greater than the Aaronic Priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood, which may be gained at 18 years of age, has leadership responsibilities and may conduct certain rites or "ordnances". The Aaronic Priesthood may administer some lesser rites.  The priesthood is passed, by the laying on of hands, from one priesthood holder higher up on the hierarchy. All the rituals of the Mormon church are conducted by authorized priesthood holders, including baptisms, temple weddings (known as sealings), and general-purpose blessings.
- "Without the priesthood and the saving ordinances thereof, 'the whole earth would be utterly wasted' "
- "Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. "
Proselytising by missionaries
The most visible aspect of Mormonism is doorstep proselytising by missionaries; the church has perhaps the most active missionary program of any contemporary religion. Missionaries are often young adults who work pairs, each wearing a dark suit. Many missionaries participate in an unpaid, self funded, full-time mission tour of 18 months to 2 years, often in a different country. When proselytising, they will often encourage non-Mormons to pray and to seek for God. Missionaries are motivated by religious fervour or social pressure. While missionary work is voluntary, there can be family or community pressure on Mormons to participate.
- "Looking back, I see a lot of missionaries just go because it is expected of them, it's what everyone else is doing, and maybe there is a lot of social pressure on the young men to do so. "
Their favorite apologetics include:
- Praying can authenticate the Book of Mormon: pray to God and "he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Moroni 10:4-5). The feeling that it is true during prayer is said to be a "burning in the bosom [chest]". This feeling is more likely to be produced by the power of suggestion because the missionary stated this would happen. Research has shown that suggesting someone will experience a sensation can actually trigger the sensation without the normal stimulus.  It is also a poor way to authenticate a holy book because many believers of other religions also have spiritual experiences, making it a broken compass argument.
- Belief will make you happy
- Appeal to emotion - missionaries sometimes show a video and ask what emotions the viewer is feeling.
Mormon society, perhaps even more than most other Christian denominations, is a patriarchy. Women are subordinate to men in the organization of the church and family structures. Women are prohibited from holding either of the church's two priesthoods, and thus are prohibited from holding priesthood based callings or leadership positions within the church.  
- "Mormonism has created an ingenious system of oppression, in which opposition towards men is tantamount to arguing with God. "
Church leaders repeatedly recommend that women, when possible, should stay at home and rear children rather than pursue professional careers.  Women do hold leadership positions in the church's women's organizations, such as the Relief Society. During the Mormon church's bi-annual broadcasts, known as general conference, the majority of the speakers are the male leaders of the church. As children, girls and boys are separated by gender into separate Sunday school classes. They also share co-ed classes and meetings as part of the regular three hour block of Sunday meetings.
Behaviour and clothing
Adult mormons are expected to wear sacred "template garments" once they have participated in their endowment ceremony.  In the section known as the "Word of Wisdom", the Doctrine and Covenants forbids consumption of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks (including tea and coffee).  Believers are expected to tithe 10% of their income to the church. 
Meetinghouse and temples
A meetinghouse is a place of worship for a local ward or branch of believers, and allow visitors. Temples are distinct from meetinghouses and are restricted to devout Mormons. The Mormon church has around 144 temples worldwide.  Only Mormons, who have been screened by local priesthood leaders for a "temple recommend," may enter the temple to perform ceremonies. Mormon temples are the setting for many of the church's secretive rituals, including marriages, sealings and the mysterious Endownment ceremonies.
Former policies against blacks
Blacks were prohibited participation in temple endowment, sealing ordinances or priesthood from 1852 until 1978.  Earlier teachings consider blacks to be limited to being "servant of servants". Since blacks have been within the church since its beginnings, this belief has a danger of causing self-hatred among believers. 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the largest church devoted to the Latter-Day Saint movement, openly endorsed and encouraged polygamous relationships for nearly the first century of its existence. Early church leaders such as Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, Jr. had as many as 50 wives, and preached that it was the only way to enter heaven. As the Utah Territory, settled by Mormon pioneers, fought the government of the United States for recognition as a state, the Church came under criticism for its practice of polygamy. In 1890, Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that renounced the practice, as a condition of Utah's statehood.
Today, practice of polygamy can lead to disfellowship (excommunication) from the LDS church, and the church claims it works with the government to stop those who practice polygamy. Nevertheless, many Latter-Day Saint sects, collectively known as fundamentalist Mormons, continue the practice of polygamy. The largest of these groups is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church), which is based in Texas and has approximately 10,000 members across North America.
Study of Mormon doctrine is complicated by statements of church leaders, even though they are considered living prophets, are not necessarily held to be church doctrine.  The church has a rarely used procedure for new doctrine to be officially accepted.  This section describes generally held doctrine rather than strictly official church doctrine.
While Mormons agree with other Christians on doctrines like the resurrection and divinity of Jesus, atonement, speaking in tongues and the fall of man, they have many distinctive beliefs. Mormons reject the concept of original sin and salvation by faith alone.
Mormons consider other Christian denominations have deviated from the true faith and are therefore apostates. They consider Mormonism to be a revival of original Christianity.  Mormons believe that without living prophets, mankind tends towards apostasy. Mormons believe that God has promised the current line of prophets will not be broken until the return of Jesus.
The two priesthoods that the Mormons claim are the Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood, referred to collectively as simply the Priesthood. They are considered to be the only authentic priesthoods on Earth. Mormons believe that Peter, one of Jesus's original apostles, was given the priesthood keys. Mormons believe that the chain of priesthood was broken and all other contemporary Christian denominations are bereft of any priesthood authority. God supposedly restored these priesthoods to the earth through Joseph Smith. The priesthood is currently maintained by a series of living prophets that lead the Mormon church, rather like the doctrine of apostolic succession.
Pre-mortal existence and salvation
Mormons believe that human souls are eternal; they always have existed and will continue to exist.  Souls start in a "pre-existent" state as spirit children before they are born.  Human souls, like God, are self-existent:
- "We say that God Himself is a self-existing being...Man does exist upon the same principles "
- "both [matter and spirit] are self-existent, they never began to exist, and they never can be annihilated "
The Mormon view of salvation calls for both faith and works:
- "If you are to return to live with God eternally, you must keep His commandments, accept Jesus Christ’s Atonement, and follow His example while you are on Earth. "
- "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.... [the] ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost "
They reject the concept of salvation by faith alone.
God the Father and the Godhead
Mormons believe that God the Father, known as Elohim or Ahman, is distinct from Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Mormons reject the concept of the Trinity but have a somewhat analogous doctrine of the Godhead which has the Father, Jesus and Holy Ghost united in will or purpose. God the Father has a physical body within space and time, and has omnipotence, omniscience and perfect love. 
Joseph Smith taught that God the Father had a father himself, implying an infinite ancestry of Gods and God the Father was one a man. This was repeated by other leaders of the church  but it is of uncertain status in official doctrine.
Christ, the Holy Ghost and all human souls are considered the literal "spiritual offspring" of God the Father.
Mormons are monolatrist in that they recognize may Gods exist but worship only the God the Father. Mormons believe that any spirit children can attain Godhood, just as Jesus did. They also reject deism and consider Gods to have physical bodies. 
Mormons also believe in a Heavenly Mother. 
- Jesus was God's first born son but one of many children of God.
- Jesus was not originally a God but achieved this state during his pre-existence (before his Earthly mission) "through consistent effort and continuous obedience".  In his pre-existent state, Jesus is referred to as Jehovah.
- All humans and Lucifer are the spirit brothers of Jesus. "But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers." 
- Formerly, some church leaders taught Jesus was a married or a polygamist.  The modern church is neutral on the issue. 
- A personal relationship with Jesus, as in evangelical Christianity, is rejected as "improper and perilous".  "some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ"  Prayers are directed rather to God (but in the name of Jesus).
- The source of Jesus's divinity is God the Father 
Humans by the process of exultation
According to Mormons, we are like Jesus and Lucifer in that we are spirit children of God, therefore human beings have the potential, if they follow God's plan, to become gods themselves by process of exaltation . In the Mormon world view, the purpose of the existence of this world is as a training ground for new gods by gaining experiences that we could not otherwise find. According to that view, human souls or intelligences existed in heaven, with God, before birth. Receiving a physical body, and eventually a perfected body after the final resurrection, is part of becoming like God the Father and Jesus Christ, who both have bodies of "flesh and bones" 
Eternal progression or exaltation refers to as the continual development of the soul towards godhood. Mormons consider each human soul to be the spiritual offspring of God, the Father. All humans who have lived, or will live on Earth, are considered to have been spiritually conceived, as spirit children, by God and one or more of his presumed wives. Jesus is considered the firstborn spirit child of God. Satan and his followers are also spirit children. Mormons also believe that there are other habitable planets (such as Kolob) in the universe, also inhabited by God's children, though Christ lived, died and was resurrected only on this planet. Thus, Mormons believe that Jesus died for the sins of all human mortals, on all planets in the universe. Presumably, there would be other gods' children in the universe, all with their own saviours, going through the same cycle of eternal progression. Whether Mormons consider these humans, belonging to other gods, to be in a separate universe of ours is the matter of some debate.
All spirit children have the potential, through eternal progression, to become gods in their own right, provided they follow God's plan. God himself is considered by Mormons to have once been a spirit child of yet other gods, an also passed through a mortal life, gaining a physical body and following his own eternal progression to his current state of godhood. Gods are thought to be eternally progressing, even though they are considered perfect, through the maturation of their spiritual progeny.
The cycle of spiritual death, physical death and redemption from both through a messianic sacrifice is continual according to this model. The goals of the cycle for each individual include: baptism by immersion, receving the gift of the Holy Ghost, achieving the highest levels of the Mormon priesthood and the various Mormon temple rites. Those who follow God's plan will eventually live with God and Christ in the Celestial kingdom. Those who do not follow that plan will receive lesser degrees of glory and live in either the Terrestrial kingdom, Telestial kingdom or Outer darkness.
Baptism for the dead
Mormons also perform ceremonies, by proxy, for their ancestors who died before Mormonism came into being.  Baptism for the dead is a practice of initiating a deceased person into a religion. The church claims that ceremonies for the dead are limited to people for whom Mormons have discovered as ancestors through the church's extensive genealogy program. The Mormon genealogy data is a useful resource for genealogy researchers outside the church. However, the church has been criticized in the past for posthumously baptizing people without their consent, as well as those outside of their members' family trees, including many of the Founding Fathers and Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Brigham Young (who was the 2nd prophet of the LDS church) taught that Adam and God where in fact the same being. He taught that God came with one of his many wives to the Garden of Eden, and he was Adam. 
Mormons believe that marital and familial bonds can continue beyond death if those family members are sealed in a Mormon temple by a priesthood holder designated as a sealer.  Sealed families will remain families in the afterlife, and will be together if they all go to the same kingdom. Deceased family members may also be sealed, provide they have been baptised posthumously, by proxy.
Obedience brings blessings
"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated"
Early Mormons used seer stones for scrying (a form of divination) to receive revelations from God or to translate documents. Although fundamental to the narrative of the religion, seer stones are not openly used by the church today. The most significant in Mormonism were the Urim and Thummim.
According to a former president of the church, Joseph Fielding Smith, they still possess one of Joseph Smith's original seer stones.  If they want to provide evidence of their validity, they would demonstrate they still work (under scientifically controlled conditions). The James Randi Educational Foundation would be happy to help them organize a suitable demonstration (and pay a large prize of they are successful). However, the church will not do this since divination is a fraud.
Curse of dark skin
The Book of Mormon claims that the Lamanites (the Native Americans) were cursed by God with dark skin because of their wickedness and so they would "not be enticing" to the Nephites (2 Nephi 5:21). Lamanites who obeyed God miraculously became white skinned. Of course, this is rather a racist thing to believe. The modern church now disavows the idea that black skin is a curse or sign of disfavor from God.  In order to reconcile this change with the Book of Mormon, apologists claim this was more a spiritual curse rather than a change of appearance. 
Celestial Kingdom, terrestrial kingdom, and telestial kingdom
Mormons believe that after death, people are resurrected, judged by God and sent to one of three kingdoms or Perdition. The kindoms are the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. Perdition is to be cast into the "outer darkness", which may be a permanent state for some people.
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- ↑ Articles of Faith, 8
- ↑ Comment by Courtney on How can I know Mormonism is true?
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- ↑ Jared comment on Why do Mormons go on missions?
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- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Rulon T. Burton, We Believe: Doctrines and Principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2004
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- ↑ 19.0 19.1 
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- ↑ 24.0 24.1 
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 
- ↑ Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:308-309
- ↑ Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:55
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- ↑ 30.0 30.1 30.2 
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- ↑ 32.0 32.1 32.2 
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- ↑ D&C 132:20
- ↑ D&C 130:22
- ↑ Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50
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- ↑ Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56) 3: 225.
- ↑ 
- Mormonism at a glance on BBC Religion & Ethics
- Official website of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) Church
- Mormon.org- A website that explores Mormon beliefs]