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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah is the largest attraction in the city's Temple Square.
The Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah is the largest attraction in the city's Temple Square.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also widely known as the "Mormon Church," or "LDS Church," is the largest denomination within the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism), a branch of Christian Restorationism. The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

The Church was formed April 6, 1830, by Joseph Smith, Jr. and five associates in Fayette, New York . After the assassination of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and his group of Mormon pioneers eventually settled in the Great Basin area (now Utah) after being expelled from Illinois by state government. The Church has since grown to a worldwide membership of over 12 million [1] (with at least one-third active worldwide - meaning members attend church meetings weekly) and is the fourth largest religious denomination in the United States [2].

The Church has been a subject of controversy since its inception because of some of its present and former doctrines and practices that are unique within modern Christianity. Despite its being a Jesus-centered religion, traditional Christians often do not recognize this nontrinitarian church as a branch of Christianity. See Mormonism and Christianity and Articles of Faith.



Members of the Church, known as "Latter-day Saints," hold that their faith is a divinely appointed restoration of the church established by Jesus Christ as depicted in the New Testament. They believe that the authority to perform baptism and other necessary ordinances, was lost from the Earth with the death of the Jesus's original apostles, leading to the Great Apostasy.

Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the restored church, told of an appearance of God (the Father) and Jesus Christ (the Son), and of later visits from angels who guided him in restoring the church. In the process, he and others claimed to receive the authority to perform baptism and other ordinances. Smith also brought forth new scripture to complement and clarify the Biblical canon. These include the Book of Mormon, which they claim was a record kept by ancient prophets, engraved on gold plates, that Smith translated into English by the power of God. Joseph Smith also recorded a number of revelations given to guide the restored church. See Scriptures below.

When Joseph Smith was killed by a mob, most of his followers accepted Brigham Young as the next President of the church and prophet. Faced with further persecution, Brigham Young eventually led them to the Salt Lake valley, where the church's headquarters remains. The Church in 2004 is headed by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the latest in a long succession of prophets since Brigham Young. He is assisted by two counselors and twelve Apostles, also sustained by members to be prophets.

The Church today is known for its worldwide missionary efforts, worldwide humanitarian services, for the construction of temples where ordinances are performed for the living and by proxy for the deceased, and for its vast genealogy resources used by members and non-members alike.


See History of the Latter Day Saint movement, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Name of the Church

The Church was first called simply the "Church of Christ" due to its members' belief that it was the restored church of Jesus Christ. Four years later, in April 1834, it was also referred to as the "Church of Latter Day Saints" to differentiate the church of this dispensation from that of the New Testament. After an additional four years, in April 1838, the full name was stated as the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" to "fully reflect the Church's identity" [3] (see Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4). In 1851, when the Church was incorporated in the United States, the official name of the Church changed slightly, picking up the additional corporate first article "The" and the British hyphenation of "Latter-day", and became "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

The Church is also commonly referred to as the "LDS Church", and sometimes the "Mormon Church", although these designations can be confusing because groups outside the Church are sometimes also referred to as "Latter Day Saints" and "Mormons" and because there never was, strictly speaking, a "Mormon Church". The nickname "Mormon" arose soon after the publication of The Book of Mormon in 1830. Although originally used pejoratively to refer to the Church or its members, the term came to be used widely within the Church. See Mormon.

In a media guide first issued in 2001, the Church requested that the official name, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", be used wherever possible, stating: "This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838." It also encouraged the use of "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ" as a shortened reference although the "LDS Church" is commonly used as shortened reference with the Church's own publications. When referring to members of the Church, it asked that the term "Latter-day Saints" be preferred, although "Mormons" is acceptable. Despite the Church's efforts over many decades to encourage use of its official name, the Associated Press has continued to recommend "Mormon Church" as a proper second reference in its influential Style Guide for journalists. Additionally, some scholars feel the term "Mormon" is useful to collectively describe all those groups which claim to descend from Joseph Smith despite the Associated Press Stylebook's guidelines to apply the term only to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Within the Church, all members are called "Saints", and the membership of the Church "The Saints" which reflects the Church's doctrine that any one who covenants by baptism to follow Christ is a saint. In the Church, saint is not a designation reserved for an especially exemplary Christian as is done in the Catholic or Orthodox churches.

First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel

Under the fourth Article of Faith, Latter-day Saints "believe that the first principles and 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."


LDS believe that faith in Jesus is a fundamental requisite to salvation. Faith in Jesus means to accept that Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah, and that salvation from sin (or spiritual death) is obtained only by following the teachings and commandments of Jesus. LDS are encouraged by Church leaders and the LDS culture to develop their faith through study, prayer and obedience. LDS often refer to their personal faith as their "testimony" and refer to telling others about their faith as "bearing testimony".


Latter-day Saints believe in the principle of repentance, which for them includes a sincere regret as well as restitution when possible and reform of one's actions. Key to the repentance process is a person's personal, prayerful confession to God, which includes asking for forgiveness and resolving not to repeat the mistake. It is considered important for a person to confess serious sins to their Bishop, who can also offer advice and encouragement in less serious matters. Consistent with the meaning of the Greek word, from which it is translated, repentance denotes "a change of mind" and "a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined." Thus, one who recommits a sin shows that he or she has not yet truly completed the repentance process.


The Church of Jesus Christ practices baptism by immersion. It is believed that baptism is symbolic of a burial and rebirth as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Through repentance and baptism, the person is believed to be cleansed of all previous sin and becomes a member of the church.

Baptism is always performed after the eighth birthday. The age of eight is considered the age when people can be responsible for their actions. The Book of Mormon and modern revelation specifically forbids the practice of infant baptism. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:27 and Moroni 8:4-23.) Baptism is only recognized when performed by one holding the office of a Priest in the Aaronic (or lesser) Priesthood (See Priesthood (Latter-day Saint).)

See also Baptisms for the Dead.

Gift of the Holy Ghost

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred on newly baptized members. A few Priesthood bearers (clergymen) place their hands on the head of the recipient. One of the clergymen speaks for the group confirming the recipient as a member of the Church and admonishing the recipient to receive the Holy Ghost; the speaker may also add other improvised words of blessing as he feels so inspired to speak. Latter-day Saints believe that this blessing entitles the newly confirmed recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian so long as the recipient lives righteously. Conversely, members believe that those who have not been given the gift may receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost but are not entitled to constant companionship.

The Priesthood and Church leadership

The Church is headed by its President whom the members sustain and revere as a Prophet, seer, and revelator whom they believe is entitled to receive revelation from God to guide the entire Church and to the rest of the world. The Other General, Area and local Authorities of the Church include Apostles, Seventies, Stake Presidents and Bishops. The President of the Church serves until his death, after which the Council of the Twelve Apostles will meet, pray, and under the leadership of the Senior Apostle will receive revelation as to who the next Prophet should be. Although not specified by revelation, the senior Apostle has historically become the new President of the Church, although this could be altered if specified by revelation (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on the First Presidency for additional information).

See also: Priesthood (Mormonism) and Priesthood (Latter-day Saint); First Presidency; Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; General Authority


Under the Church's doctrine of continuing revelation (see Articles of Faith number 9), the Church has an open scriptural canon which currently includes the Bible, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. These scriptures form the Standard Works of the Church. Many of the pronouncements of general authorities, particularly the President of the Church, are also often viewed as uncanonized scripture—particularly official written pronouncements signed by the First Presidency and/or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, such as "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (1995), which defined the Church's vision of the ideal family (which resembles the typical nuclear family), and "The Living Christ" (2000), which commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ. To the extent that statements by prophets or general authorities contradict previous statements by other general authorities, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to accept the most recent statement as authoritative, while re-interpreting the earlier statement as mere personal opinion, on the theory that "the living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet". See Ezra Taft Benson, "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet" (February 26, 1980).

English-speaking members typically use the King James Version of the Bible; Joseph Smith also translated a version of the bible, known as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible although this translation bible is not generally used by members of the Church, the Bible issued by the Church contains cross references to the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). Though part of the canon, members believe that the books of the Bible contain some error regarding basic principles of the gospel necessary for salvation due to numerous translations and omissions over the thousands of years since they were authored. Thus, LDS consider the Book of Mormon to be more correct—although no more authoritative—than modern versions of the Bible.

The introduction of The Book of Mormon describes the book as follows:

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel. The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C.E., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of Jesus Christ among Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of revelations given to prophets of modern times, starting with Joseph Smith. This record contains Church doctrine as well as direction on Church government.

The Pearl of Great Price contains: (1) excerpts from Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis, called the book of Moses, and of Matthew 24, called Joseph Smith—Matthew; (2) Joseph Smith’s translation of some Egyptian papyrus that he claimed to acquire in 1835, called the book of Abraham; (3) an excerpt from The Documentary History of the Church containing a letter written by Joseph Smith in 1838, called Joseph Smith—History; and (4) an excerpt of another of Joseph Smith's letters called the Articles of Faith, thirteen statements of belief and doctrine.

See also: Controversies regarding Mormonism.

The Godhead: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost

According to the theology of the Church, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct personages that together form the Godhead (as distinct from the Trinity decreed by the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, in response to disagreement in the form of Arianism within the early church). All three members of the Godhead are eternal and equal in divinity, but they play somewhat different roles. While the Holy Ghost is a spirit who has not yet received a physical body, God and Christ are embodied spirits; that is, the spirits (or spiritual bodies) of both God and Christ are clothed in separate, distinct, perfected, glorified, physical bodies of flesh and bone. Although Mormon theology considers the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to be separate beings, they are considered to be "one" in most every other possible sense.

Mormonism posits most of the same attributes to the members of the Godhead as Christianity posits of the Trinity: omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, eternal, immutable, immortal and immanent in the universe but not transcendent of it. However, the meaning of some of these attributes differs significantly. For example, Mormonism holds that: as creator God is the organizer of the universe since in Mormonism all matter (including sentient beings) in the universe has always existed and will exist eternally; God's omnipotence does not transcend the laws of physics or logic; and God's immutability concerns primarily his creations and his future status and not with his status prior to that time. The eternal and uncreated nature of God, matter and the spirits of mankind is referred to in the Church hymn, If you could hie to Kolob (Hymn number 284). It should be noted that the Church publishes its own hymnals in various languages, and exercises editorial control over hymn selection and content.

Although it is not directly stated in the canonical scriptures, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders have taught that God the Father is an exalted man who once lived as a man. Joseph Smith reportedly taught:

These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46.)

It is implied that God may have lived a mortal life passing through death and resurrection and eventually progressing to godhood. The creation story in Genesis would begin sometime after this point.

Latter-day Saints also believe, although it is not canonical, that God is eternally married to a Heavenly Mother. Heavenly Mother is believed to be entirely equal in status to Heavenly Father, a celestial Goddess and God respectively, forever married to one another and preserving differing yet complementary roles of deity, although she is not explicitly or extensively referred to in doctrine, scripture, or other Church canons. Her existence is referred to briefly in the Church hymn titled O My Father (Hymn number 292), and it is presumed from Church teachings that proclaim that each person is a "spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents" (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Thus, her existence is simply acknowledged by Church members and leadership, but she is not worshipped nor is made the object of prayer. It is commonly surmised that she is deliberately and safely protected in anonymity by Heavenly Father, whereby no human being knows Her name.

While some refer to the Church's doctrine of the godhead as polytheistic, Latter-day Saints would be more accurately portrayed as henotheistic or monolatristic. In contrast to this, Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians insist that their religion is monotheistic; that is, God is One in Being (ousia) and simultaneously Three, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in Persons (hypostases). Though the existence of other gods is acknowledged by the Church and its members, this fact is considered almost irrelevant to salvation: the other gods—which Latter-day Saints would refer to as exalted beings—have no impact on this sphere of existence.

Despite the Church's name, its focus on Jesus as sole savior of mankind, its family values and many of its gospel teachings in common with Christianity, many theologians and members of other Christian denominations consider the difference between the Church's practices and doctrines—such as the contrast between the Church's doctrine of the Godhead and the mainstream Christian doctrine of trinitarianism—so fundamental that they do not regard Latter-day Saints as Christians. (See Mormonism and Christianity.) Latter-day Saints counter that it is mainstream Christianity that misunderstands the nature of God. They hold that the mainstream concept of God was corrupted by the introduction of Platonic realism, Neoplatonism, and extreme Asceticism into the early Christian church and that these influences continued through the Great Apostasy.

Latter-day Saints do not use the cross or crucifix as a symbol of their faith. Most modern Latter-day Saints choose not to view the emphasis upon the symbol of Jesus' death, and prefer to focus upon Jesus' life and resurrection. However, currently one of the most commonly used visual symbols of the Church is the trumpeting angel Moroni, proclaiming the restoration of the true gospel to the Earth (usually identified as the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6–7); and a statue depicting the angel often tops the tallest spire of LDS temples.

See also: Godhead (Mormonism); King Follett Discourse

Salvation, Exaltation, Damnation and Eternal Progression

Latter-day Saints believe that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved [from sin (spiritual death) and physical death], by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (See Articles of Faith number 3.) This Plan of Salvation is God's plan for the return of mankind to live with him as glorified, eternal beings. Salvation occurs through Jesus, whom they view as the redeemer of mankind. The gift of immortality is believed to come to all through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and his subsequent Resurrection. (See 1 Corinthians 15:22.) Although it is believed that immortality is a free gift to all people, entrance to the Heavenly Kingdom (referred to as the "Celestial Kingdom") (See 1 Corinthians 15:40.) comes only to those who accept Jesus through baptism by priesthood authority into the Church, follow Church doctrine, and who live righteous lives. Faith alone, i.e. dead faith, or faith without works, is not considered sufficient to gain exaltation. (See James 2:26.)

Exaltation is the reward which the Church believes is given to righteous members—including those who accept the Gospel in the afterlife. Through the process of exaltation, a person can eventually become a god and creator.

It is believed that people who do not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel while on Earth will have the opportunity in the afterlife.

The Celestial Kingdom (metaphorically glorious as the sun) is the place where righteous Church members live with God and with their families.

Those good people who choose not to be valiant in following Jesus or who do not accept the Gospel do not qualify for exaltation, and will be consigned to—and indeed find themselves more comfortable in—the Terrestrial Kingdom (metaphorically compared to the moon's brightness). This place is believed to be one of great glory, but without the presence of God the Father.

Murderers and other criminals also spend eternity with people of like intent in the Telestial Kingdom (likened to the stars). This also is considered a kingdom of glory, and is described as being much more glorious than mortal life, perhaps because it is free from the sickness and want of mortality.

These three kingdoms—the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial—are comparable to the concept of heaven as found in most other Christian denominations in that they are places of eternal happiness. For church members the kingdoms are congruent with heaven and in accord with Christ's New Testament words "In my house there are many mansions...". These kingdoms also form a vital part of the Plan of Salvation.

A small number of truly evil people, who have a full knowledge of the Gospel and willingly reject what they know to be God's truth in its entirety, are believed to be consigned to what is commonly referred to as Outer Darkness at the final judgement—a place of no light (light being the common metaphor for truth). An individual banished to Outer Darkness is known as a Son of Perdition.

Within greater Christianity, the LDS view of salvation is most like Arminianism, a commonly held view which emphasizes the individual's free-will acceptance of the grace of God throughout life.


Weekly worship services, including Sacrament Meetings, are held in meetinghouses, also referred to as "chapels". Everyone is welcome in a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. Members meet together in Sacrament meetings, and each meeting includes administration of the Sacrament, similar to Communion or the Eucharist in other churches. Typical meetings include the singing of hymns (accompanied by piano or organ) and two or three discourses by members. Although it is not required, women usually attend wearing skirts or dresses, while men wear suits or dress shirts and ties. People in different attire are also welcome.

Weekly services typically include two hours of meetings aside from the hour-long Sacrament Meeting. All children under 12 attend two hours of Primary classes. All people over 12 attend an hour of Sunday School for gospel instruction, and separate by age and gender for an hour-long meeting. Men and young men over 12 years old attend Priesthood. Young women from 12-17 attend Young Women. Women 18 or older attend Relief Society. These meetings may be held in any order. For instance, Sacrament Meeting may be scheduled first, followed by Sunday School, followed by the Priesthood, Young Women, and Relief Society groups separating to hold their respective meeting.


Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hamilton, New Zealand
Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hamilton, New Zealand

Temples are not used for regular Sunday worship, but are primarily for performing ceremonial ordinances that Latter-day Saints believe are essential for entering the Celestial Kingdom. One must be a member in good standing in order to enter any of the dedicated temples. However, the public is welcome to tour temples at open houses before dedication. Many, but not all, temples also have a special Visitors Center open to the general public.

The ordinances performed in temples, including baptisms, can be done by proxy for those who have died, affording them the same benefits as if they had performed them when they were alive. To obtain names of people for whom ordinances can be performed, the church encourages genealogical research and makes available its vast genealogical resources to all through its website Although it is not official doctrine, Latter-day Saints generally believe that ultimately (after the Second Coming) all people who have lived will have had the opportunity to receive these ordinances. The ordinances are believed to have no effect, however, on those who decide they don't wish to receive the benefits of, or reject the Gospel. The temple ceremonies have been modified over the years several times, most recently in 1991. Faithful members consider the temple ceremony sacred and avoid discussing details outside of the temple, even when among other endowed members. Nevertheless, details of the ceremonies have been published, mostly by former members who since became antagonistic towards the church.

See also: Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Endowed church members also may wear special clothing or undergarments, called the temple garments. The garment stands as an outward symbol of the member's commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to abide by a high moral standard. Members believe that by keeping their temple covenants, they will be sustained and protected.


A sealing is a special ritual or ceremony which is held only in a Temple. During a Sealing, the members of a family, including parents and children, are bound together as a family in a way which is believed to endure beyond death and throughout eternity. The Church teaches that a family which has been sealed in the Temple will remain a family unit after death if they are faithful to the covenants they make as members. This is the belief which lies behind the well-known church slogan, "Families are Forever."

Baptisms for the Dead

Church doctrine is that certain ordinances necessary for salvation, including baptism, must be performed by the living. These ordinances may then be performed in temples by someone who is living as a proxy for a deceased individual. The deceased individual is then free to accept or reject the ordinance(s) done on their behalf.

The Church has been criticized for some of its practice of baptism for the dead. Some groups have taken offense at this practice if the decedent's family members have not given or been asked permission. (See, for instance this CNN article regarding the representatives of Holocaust victims.


Because of their doctrinal beliefs (primarily, the LDS ritual of proxy work for the dead in their temples), LDS have compiled one of the world's largest databases of genealogical information and created GEDCOM a standard data file format for storing and editing the data on computers. Genealogists (both LDS and not) often visit the Church's local genealogy libraries, or the larger genealogy library near Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Other Practices

Practices more or less distinctive to Latter-day Saints include following the Word of Wisdom (eating healthy, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee and eating meat sparingly), tithing (giving 10 percent of one's gross income to the church), chastity, modesty in dress, lay leadership, Family Home Evenings (families are encouraged to meet weekly for prayer and other activities - typically on Monday), and home and visiting teaching (members regularly visit other members in their homes for prayer and study). Tattoos and body piercings (except for one pair of earrings for women) are discouraged. Church members are encouraged to marry and have children, and as a result, Mormon families tend to be larger than average. Because of the importance of the family unit, sexual activity out of the bonds of marriage is not allowed and homosexuality is discouraged.

Latter-day Saint fathers typically bless their babies shortly after birth as a formal reason to generate a church record for the child. Various blessings may be pronounced, as the father feels inspired. This blessing mainly serves to generate a record for the child, so people who join later in life do not require it.


Although it is no longer practiced, some church members at one time followed a form of polygamy they called "plural marriage", following the example of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other early Church leaders.


Prayers are addressed to a "Heavenly Father" and offered in the name of Christ. English-speaking members generally use "thee", "thou", "thy", and "thine" when addressing God, as a form of both familiarity and respect. Members who speak other languages use similar grammar in prayer.


Young men (between the ages of 19 to 26) who are worthy are encouraged to go on a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. Young women, who must be at least 21, may also serve 18-month missions. Elderly, retired couples are encouraged to serve missions as well, but their length of service varies from 12 to 24 months. The Church has about 60,000 missionaries worldwide. [4]


The Church strongly emphasizes education and subsidizes Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University-Idaho (formerly Ricks College), and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The Church also has a seminary program for high school students and an institute program for college-aged students that teach Church doctrines and encourage study of scripture.

Fasting and Testimonies

Typically the first Sunday of every month is designated as a "fast and testimony" Sunday. On that day, members fast for two meals and donate the cash value of the meals they would have eaten to the Church's "fast offerings fund." These funds are used to provide financial assistance to indigent members in the congregation or other Church members worldwide. This assistance may be for food, rent, counseling or other basic needs. The church also uses fast offering funds to provide basic humanitarian support to individuals not affiliated with the church, usually after natural disasters or during other periods of extreme hardship. During "Fast and Testimony Meeting" (which takes the place of the normal sacrament meeting) the Bishop of the congregation invites members (from young children to the elderly) who feel "moved by the spirit" to bear their testimonies. Members may stand before the congregation in an orderly manner and give a testimony, which consists of testifying that the member believes in the basic precepts of the Church and why. Members also usually relate an anecdote that bolstered or verified their faith in the Church.

Fasting and testifying also occur outside of church meetings. Members may fast and pray for special or personal reasons such as for someone's health, direction in important decisions, overcoming personal problems, or any other spiritual or temporal reason. Church missionaries and members regularly share their testimonies while proselytizing and talking about the gospel.

Fasting for the Latter-day Saint goes beyond abstaining from food, but also includes abstaining from drinking any type of beverages including water. People who have particular medical conditions may not fast, yet can sacrifice in some other way.

General Conference

Corresponding with the date of the founding of the church, the first Sunday of April (and preceding Saturday) of each year the church holds its General Conference. The first Sunday of October (and preceding Saturday) of each year the church holds its Semiannual General Conference. At these General Conferences members of the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, Seventies and others are given the opportunity to provide counsel and instruction to the membership of the church at large. Each session of the conference is two hours long (three on Saturday and two on Sunday) are broadcast on television, radio and internet. The General Women's Conference of the church is held on the preceding Saturday.

Membership distribution

According to the Church's official website, as of December, 2003, there were nearly 12 million members worldwide:

  • Canada - 166,442
  • United States - 5,503,192
  • Mexico - 980,053
  • Caribbean - 133,969
  • Central America - 513,067
  • South America - 2,818,103
  • Europe - 433,667
  • Asia - 844,091
  • Africa - 203,597
  • South Pacific - 389,073


  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The (2003). Facts and Figures. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2003 from,15606,4034-1---10-168,00.html
  2. (2003). Largest Religious Groups in the USA. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2003 from
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (2003). Name of the Church. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2003 from
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The (2002). The Missionary Program. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2003 from,15606,4037-1---6-168,00.html

Related articles

Further reading

  • The Refiner's Fire: The making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke, Cambridge University Press 1996, ISBN 0521565642.

External links

Official websites of the Church

Other LDS links

Opposing views

Responses to critics

Last updated: 12-22-2004 06:15:05