WASHINGTON – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Mormonism – is working hard to be understood.
Its position in secular culture, portrayal in the media and regard by other branches of Christianity has always been shaky. But in its campaign to become more mainstream, understanding its unique history is essential to knowing its members’ sense of identity.
Nearly two-thirds of Mormons said Americans “know little or nothing” about their religion in a 2012 Pew Research poll. In 2011, “cult” was the most common answer in a Pew Research poll asking for a one-word description of the religion.
But last year, 60.9 million people — 47 percent of the popular vote — polled for Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to be their next U.S. president.
The LDS Church has more than 10,000 missionaries in 179 countries engaged in humanitarian work, according to the church’s official website.
Nonetheless, statistics show that most non-Mormons regard the religion as “very different” from Christianity and one-third believe it is “not Christian,” according to another Pew Research poll in 2011.
That may be because Mormons believes Christianity went astray for nearly two millennia after Christ’s death.
This period is known as The Great Apostasy.
Linda McKinney, an attorney at the Department of Justice who converted to the religion at 11, compared it to a telephone message relayed through a dozen people. Inevitably, the original message becomes muddled.
Mormons, however, do study the Old and New Testament. The Great Apostasy does not imply that all branches of Christianity were fraudulent, Mormons said.
Mormons believe that Jesus Christ visited a young man named Joseph Smith in the early 1800s and chose him to restore God’s vision of the church to its original direction and framework.
The arrangement of the Church’s leadership reflects this, as the president – sometimes referred to as the prophet – leads the church with a quorum of 12 apostles below him.
The apostles and prophet serve in their positions for life. When the prophet passes away, the most senior apostle assumes the president’s position.
Even today, Many societies tell time – the year, month and minute – from the event of Jesus Christ’s death with the annotations A.D. and B.C.
Similarly, for Mormon’s the visitation of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith and the renovation of the gospel is so important an event that it is referred to as The Great Restoration.
All saints before it were former-day and all saints after, latter-day, thus, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.