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Mormonism is the theology and religious tradition of the Latter-Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity started by Joseph Smith in Western New York in the 1820s and 1830s. As a label, Mormonism has been applied to various aspects of the Latter-Day Saint movement, although there has been a recent push from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to distance themselves from this label. A historian, Sydney E. Ahlstrom, wrote in 1982 that, depending on the context, the term Mormonism could refer to “a sect, a mystery cult, a new religion, a church, a people, a nation, or an American subculture; indeed, at different times and places it is all of these."

Two Members of the Mormon Cult

A prominent feature of Mormon theology is the Book of Mormon, which describes itself as a chronicle of early Indigenous peoples of the Americas and their dealings with God. Mormon theology includes mainstream Christian beliefs with modifications stemming from belief in revelations to Smith and other religious leaders. This includes the use of and belief in the Bible and other religious texts, including the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Mormonism includes significant doctrines of eternal marriage, eternal progression, baptism for the dead, polygamy or plural marriage, sexual purity, health (specified in the Word of Wisdom), fasting, and Sabbath observance.


The theology itself is not uniform; as early as 1831, and most significantly after Smith's death, various groups split from the Church of Christ that Smith established. Other than differences in leadership, these groups most significantly differ in their stances on polygamy, which the Utah-based LDS Church banned in 1890, and Trinitarianism, which the LDS Church does not affirm. The branch of theology that seeks to maintain the practice of polygamy is known as Mormon fundamentalism and includes several different churches. Other groups affirm Trinitarianism, such as the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), and describe their doctrine as Trinitarian Christian restorationist.


Cultural Mormonism is a term coined by cultural Mormons who identify with the culture, especially present in much of the American West, but do not necessarily identify with the theology.

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