The Diversity Within Mormonism: Beyond the LDS Church

SharePinEmailWhen people think of Mormonism, they often equate it solely with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). But the landscape of Mormonism is more diverse than it appears. This article looks at the distinctions and commonalities within the broader Mormon movement, in order to address misconceptions and highlight the unique elements that…

When people think of Mormonism, they often equate it solely with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). But the landscape of Mormonism is more diverse than it appears. This article looks at the distinctions and commonalities within the broader Mormon movement, in order to address misconceptions and highlight the unique elements that define different groups.

Roots of Mormonism

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Mormonism began in the early 19th century with Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS Church in 1830. Smith’s revelations and the publication of the Book of Mormon laid the foundation for what would become a complex and multifaceted religious movement. Over the last century, Mormonism has spread all around the world.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Although there are other Mormonism groups, the LDS Church is the largest and most well-known branch of Mormonism. With millions of members worldwide, it promotes a strong sense of community, missionary work, and a commitment to family values. 

Fundamentalist Mormon Groups

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There are several fundamentalist groups that split from the LDS Church, primarily over the issue of polygamy, which the mainstream church officially abandoned in 1890. These factions often maintain practices and beliefs that are reminiscent of early Mormonism, and view fundamentalist Mormons to be extreme, although the core tenets of the belief system remain the same. 

The Word of Wisdom

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Both mainstream Mormons and many fundamentalist groups adhere to the Word of Wisdom, a health code revealed by Joseph Smith. This includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea, and promoting a healthy diet. Following the Word of Wisdom is thought to improve your physical and spiritual well-being. 

The Role of Polygamy

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Polygamy is perhaps the most controversial aspect associated with Mormonism. In simple terms, polygamy is having more than one spouse. In early Mormonism, it wasn’t uncommon for men to have several wives. The LDS Church discontinued the practice over a century ago, but some fundamentalist groups continue to practice polygamy, which distinguishes them from mainstream Mormons. But polygamy is illegal in many areas of the world including throughout the USA. 

Unique Scriptures

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Mormons believe in several sacred texts beyond the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Such texts are considered scripture and form the doctrinal basis for the LDS faith. While these scriptures are unique, many Mormons study them alongside the Bible. 

Modern-Day Prophets

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The LDS Church believes in ongoing revelation and is led by a prophet and apostles, similar to the structure in early Christianity. This belief in modern prophets sets them apart from most Christian organizations. In many other denominations, there are no modern prophets sanctioned by the church. 

Temples and Worship

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LDS temples are central to the faith and form an important aspect of everyday life. These sacred spaces are used for special religious ceremonies, including marriages that Mormons believe can last for eternity. Fundamentalist groups also place a high value on temple rituals. The temples are also used for social activities to create a strong communal bond within the church.

Gender Roles

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The LDS Church champions traditional gender roles, with men typically holding priesthood positions and women focusing on family and nurturing roles. But this structure has been a point of contention and discussion both within and outside the church.

Treatment of LGBTQ+ Individuals

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The LDS Church teaches that sexual relations should be reserved for heterosexual marriage, leading to complex and often challenging discussions regarding LGBTQ+ members. As with many Christian denominations, the church celebrates love and respect but upholds conservative views on marriage and sexuality.

Missionary Work

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Missionary work is a hallmark of the LDS Church, with young men and women often serving two-year missions to spread their faith. The missionary work can vary from spreading the word in far-flung areas of the world, to building schools, hospitals and homes in poorer countries. Mormonism’s commitment to evangelism has significantly contributed to its global growth.

Educational Focus

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Education is highly valued among Mormons. Institutions like Brigham Young University offer higher education that integrates faith and learning. These institutions allow students to enjoy a well-rounded education, with a commitment to both intellectual and spiritual development.

Community and Family

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Family is the heart of Mormon life. Regular activities, prayer, and scripture study are encouraged to strengthen familial bonds and build a supportive community environment. Many church activities are family-focused, so that even little ones can feel like part of the community. 

Public Perception

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Public figures like Mitt Romney have faced immense scrutiny over their faith, and despite growing acceptance, popular misconceptions about Mormonism persist.

Legal and Political Issues

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The LDS Church has been involved in various legal battles, particularly concerning religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Such issues continue to frame the church’s relationship with the broader legal and political landscape.

Genealogy and Ancestry

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Mormons place a strong emphasis on genealogy and believe in the importance of connecting with their ancestors. Resources like FamilySearch.org help members trace their lineage and perform religious rites for deceased relatives.

The Future of Mormonism

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As Mormonism continues to adapt and grow, both mainstream and fundamentalist groups face the challenge of maintaining their distinct identities while engaging with the modern world. The ongoing balance between tradition and adaptation will shape the future of this dynamic religious movement for many years to come.

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