Mormonism is a branch of Christianity and the most prevalent religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement. This movement began in the 1820s Western New York, when – according to Mormon belief – Joseph Smith, Jr. discovered a set of buried golden plates inscribed with an Ancient language. Guided by God, Smith translated the plates into the Book of Mormon, one of the primary texts of the LDS movement.
In 1844, Smith was imprisoned and killed by LDS opponents, leaving his congregation without a Prophet and head. Soon, most Mormons accepted Brigham Young as their new leader, who officially founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in present-day Utah. The LDS Church is currently led by 15 Apostles – the most senior acting as Prophet and President.
Mormonism shares overlapping beliefs with “orthodox” Christianity, with some notable differences. In addition to the Book of Mormon, the LDS Church also uses The Bible as an important religious text. Like most other Christians, Mormons believe in three divine persons: God the Father, the God of Judaism; Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born as a man to save humanity from sin; and the Holy Spirit, a divine, inspirational force. Unlike the majority of Christians, however, Mormons oppose the Holy Trinity: the idea that these three figures are distinct yet unified in one God. Rather, Mormons believe they are separate entities, some outright referring to them as three separate Gods.
Culturally, Mormons emphasize good deeds, personal and sexual modesty, and prayer. As young adults, Mormons may become missionaries and travel in same-gendered pairs to promote their faith. Though Mormonism is popularly associated with polygamy, Mainstream Mormons abandoned the practice decades ago – along with other controversial doctrines. However, polygamy is not only practiced in Mormon Fundamentalism, it’s required for highest salvation.
Liberal Reformists are the third grouping of Mormons, composed of splinter churches that broke from Mainstream Mormonism in the spirit of cultural and political liberalism. The Godbeites were among the first of these groups, and embraced all belief systems until their church died out in the 1880s. More recently, the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ broke from the LDS Church as an LGBT-friendly denomination. Others are simply culturally Mormon, living out the ideals of the Church without practicing the religion.