Nowadays, Mormonism is deemed one of the most influential religions and beliefs worldwide. It consists of approximately thirteen million adherents and is regarded as the second fastest spreading spiritual practicing in the USA. Mormonism is also one of the most mysterious and enigmatic contemporary religions, as it aims at not exposing, but developing and forming the entire notion. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, Mormonism has been growing as a separate branch of Christianity. The founder or mastermind of the innovative religious approach was Johnathan Smith that immensely contributed the formation and further growth of the spiritual term. From the very commencement, Mormonism has proven to be a self-dependent religion that has a particular impact on the local population. Along with other beliefs, Mormon dogmas and principles have been developed. Such principles as polygamy, emphasis on family issues, isolation of the community, and numerous other tendencies are the characteristic features of the entire notion. Besides, different aspects of the religion and some peculiar living orders of the spiritual adherents are also a significant point in the exploration of the faith. Among plentiful aspects, cultural and religious features are the most remarkable as they assist in understanding the overall notion and the influence of the Mormonism both on the local population and the global society. Diverse traditions, customs, beliefs, convictions and other important issues form a unique apprehension and further exploration of the topic because these questions are the constituent elements of the Mormon lifestyle and daily routine. A precise analysis of the issues and their effect on Mormon identity is a considerable step in developing a general idea of a religious society worldwide. Thus, the aim of the paper is to investigate the most curious peculiarities of the religion, and unfold the cultural specialties of people that take an active part in spreading Mormon standpoints in the whole world.
Historical Peculiarities of Mormonism
Mormonism as a separate and unique religious movement appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century (Duffy, 2014, p.183). During the lifetime of Jonathan Smith, a father and even the Prophet of Mormonism, and immediately after his death the groups of adherents were considered to belong to Latter-day Saints (Shipps, 1987, p.1), a former term for the entire notion. In fact, with reference to Rodgers (2009), the Latter-day Saints are the members of the so-called LDS Restoration, a evangelist sect that relies on diverse religious ideas and conception from the Book of Mormons (p. 75). Mormonism is believed to be a separate branch of one of the most widespread religions in the world – Christianity since they seem to share the common values and credits. In fact, the image of Jesus Christ is central for both faiths. Since the establishment of the religion, its traces have been found throughout the whole world. Being interconnected with various branches of Christianity and other creeds, Mormonism encompasses a unique combination of the most peculiar world religions and their characteristic features. In addition, Mormons have developed an original culture that is determined as a “practice” (Hyde, 1857, p.7). Thus, Mormonism remains to one of the most curious spheres of analysis.
The historical chronicles of Mormonism encompass a continuous period of development and formation. Commencing in the early nineteenth century, the religious movement was founded and highly supported by Joseph Smith, an American preacher and ideologist (Beam, 2014, p.71). His manifestations consisted in the exploration of the role of church, its influence on the contemporary society, and truthfulness of some peculiar religious dogmas, aiming at deciding what Christian ideology or manifestations are the most veracious. As a result, Smith resolved to start his own religious doctrine and principles that denote the brand-new ideas about interpreting Christianity, God, and other spiritual issues of that time. These innovations resulted in creating a collection of the principal creeds and convictions of a new faith. It was called the Book of Mormon (Hardy, 2005, p.7). Besides, this text covers some issues, connected with a religious history of the local inhabitants since ancient times. Apart from manifesting the primary concepts, Joseph Smith participated in founding an original church that was called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was definitely a success as the new-made church had a tremendous impact on the American territories. The influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints included multiple social and cultural programs of development; they consisted in attracting people to bear a part in the formation and growth of the spiritual movement. The adherents of the contemporary church even constructed a temple in order to worship the creed and express their respect in relation to the most significant doctrines. However, numerous imbroglios appeared as the traditional Christian church started to confront the supporters of a new-made one. Additionally, open conflicts occurred between the two opposite sides. Consequently, the founder of the Church of Latter-day Saints was arrested and killed in a jail (Davies, 2003, p.8). However, the overall influence and expansion of the religion did not vaporize but it emerged with renewed vigor. New directions of its policy were not only the socio-cultural development, but also the economic, agricultural and geopolitical aspects. Under the brand-new leadership, possessions of the church comprised territories and properties in United States, Canada, and even Mexico. However, the policy of the Saints was a crucial factor that played a considerable role in alienating the religious community from the mainstream society. Furthermore, a plenty of customs and traditions, characteristic for the spiritual adherents, such as polygamy and some political strategies, did not satisfy the supporters of the old-line lifestyle. Hence, an armed hostility arose, and the community was forced to become isolated. Nonetheless, the entire commune shared the commonwealth and prospered in terms of the conjoint disfavor of the religion. Thus, the history of Mormonism, especially in the beginning of its development, was marked by multifold events and other issues that played a notable role in forming the modern understanding of the religion.
In the history of the 20th century, Mormonism was furthered from United States to other regions. It was becoming more and more popular due to its emphasis on the middle-class society. At the beginning of the century, Mormons integrated into the American mainstream society. They commenced to neglect the polygamist principles and switched to conservative dogmas of the human civilization. Among a variety of Mormon objectives, they focused on educating the younger generations and developing their mental and physiological skills. The religious authorities concentrated on supporting various organizations that are based on scouting, women studies, physical and entertaining activities. Even during the severe times in the chronicles of the time, Mormons established a particular welfare program to sustain the needs of the people. Besides, along with a leap in the society, connected with permissiveness and degrading social values, Mormonism interchanged the directions of its functioning. Now the primary focus was put on the preservation the family traditions, maintaining the hereditary and accustomed lifestyle, and religious education of the entire community. By the end of the century, the religious movement was propagated both inside and outside United States due to the peculiar course of the spiritual commune. Thus, Mormonism in the history of the 20th century period progressed as one of the most high-powered religions throughout the world.
Outspread of Mormonism in the World
Nowadays, along with other religions, Mormonism remains to be one of the most widespread and supported spiritual practices in the world. The representatives of LDS church tend to promote their beliefs in a global society. Africa, North and South America, Canada, Asian countries and Europe are profoundly influenced by the adherents of Mormonism. The overall impact consists in spreading the cultural ideas, social, economic programs, and religious or philosophical concepts. For instance, the principle of plural marriages, different educational programs aiming at increasing the academic progress in the light of Mormon values, and developing social equality are the examples of the church’s functioning. Thus, the entire religious movement and its notable characteristics are supported worldwide.
Cultural Specialties of Mormon Community
Various cultural and religious peculiarities are principal in the exploration of the Mormon identity. Mormons have a formed and well-developed culture that is designed for needs of the community. Creative skills and wish to unite the people found their representations in musical, cinematographic, and educational forms. Considering musical issues, Mormons are famous for a professional tuneful community, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Hicks, 2003, p.152). It consists of approximately 360 voices and is admitted by America’s authorities as one of the most masterful singing commune. In addition, Mormon musical culture encompasses creating hymns, religious songs and other forms of audial arts. As for the visual illustrations, various films, such as “Sons of Provo”, “Book of Mormon Movie”, etc., reflect the essential dogmas and conceptions of the religion and its culture, in particular (Hunter, 2012, p.38). Education, the main direction of Mormons’ functioning, covers different issues and questions that assist in forming the entire notion. Spiritual classes and forms of studies, aimed at obtaining a certain qualification, language learning courses, seminars, possibilities to join distance learning projects, participation in church services and other potentialities are deemed the advantageous points of the Mormon educational system. In fact, the educational establishments and the curriculum are arranged in accordance with the community’s demands in religious and social interactions. Moreover, learning process is interconnected with Mormon philosophy as religion is an integral part of the local lifestyle. Thus, the cultural aspect of Mormonism flourishes and is directional to fulfil the requirements of the spiritual commune.
Social and Family Issues in the Mormon Society
The social peculiarities in the light of culture and religion are also important in the analysis of Mormon identity. The entire life in the localities is centered primarily around the church. The foremost goal is to serve the house of God and vigorously participate in the religious projects or missionary programs. Church service is another significant part of the Mormonism. The participants of the ceremony are to behold God, swear allegiance and take part in Lord’s Sacrament, an adopted ritual from Baptism (Bitton, 2009, p. 203). Additionally, a typical Mormon acknowledges Jesus Christ as the primary source of knowledge and admonishment. People must praise God, glorify Christ, pray regularly and work for the church. At weekends, especially on Sundays, they should not work, if possible. Besides, holidays are the times for the families and close people to gather and worship God. In fact, family is the most important notion in the overall Mormon Philosophy. Initially, polygamy was a characteristic feature of the local society. However, nowadays, the majority of adherents prefer monogamous relationships in order to maintain integrity of the valuable family ties. Since the beginning of the 20th century, family ties and a close connection with relatives have been the key traits of Mormonism. For the time of overall decrease of moral and social values, Mormons decided to preserve the obsolescent family alliance.According to Bushman (2006), “the family, not the individual, is the unit of society in Mormon culture” (p.38). Amid a plenty of issues that affect family life, devotion and allegiance are the most characteristic features (Davies, 2013, p.172). Mormons even believe that marriages might last forever, and the spouses are together for all eternity (Bushman, 2006, p.39). It is stated that the divorce level is the lowest in the Mormon society as the local people reject the possible estrangement, as they are not willing to ruin the stability and strong family ties. Betrayal and extramarital sex are treated as disrespectful and are even punished by the members of the society (Bushman, 2006, p.38-39). However, same-sex marriages are accepted until the couple is monogamous. Furthermore, healthy lifestyle through the prism of family relationships is even more important. Hence, family ties are central in the development of Mormon doctrines and their appliance to the local society.
Religious Understanding of Mormonism
Mormonism is closely interrelated with Christian traditions and principles. In fact, Mormonism is a separate branch of Christianity, however, with several peculiar features. For instance, the image of Jesus Christ as the Savior (Bitton, 2009, p. 39) is central in both religions. Christians and Mormons seem to worship Christ as a symbol of fidelity, love, compassion, devotion, and guardianship (Paulsen, 2007, p.20). However, in contrast to the traditional biblical interpretation, Mormons consider Christ to be created not of flesh and bones, but to be a spirit child of the Lord (Gurley & Dean, 2013, p.79). Consequently, the notion of Holy Trinity is broken. Besides, Mormonism has its own visions of the forgiveness and compassion as the community believes that forgiveness of sins is justified apart from works. Moreover, despite the fact that Christians and Mormons are quite similar in principles of worshiping God, e.g. in terms of praying, serving in the church and helping the disabled or poor, Mormons are far more conservative in their demands of glorifying God (Bushman, 2006, p.23). In other words, the Mormon community is to obey and serve in all cases while Christians are free to decide whether to yield or not. One more difference is the Mormon’s conception of restoration Christ’s Church. The adherents of a brand-new religion consider contemporary church to be disadvantageous as the doctrines and their interpretations through various rituals are outmoded. Furthermore, according to Mormon standpoints, the principal emphasis is to be put on worshipping Jesus Christ, but not remembering other Saints in the church rituals. In fact, various scholars deem Mormonism to be a separate religion, distant from the Christian beliefs. Thus, diverse interconnections and interpretations seem to be the foremost points in understanding the religious aspect of Mormonism.
Missionary and volunteering projects are a significant contribution to the influence of Mormonism. These notions consist in spreading and promoting the principal ideas and fundamental theories about the Mormon religious specialties (Cornwall et al., 2001, p. 170). Besides, these programs help unite the Mormon supporters from different cultures or nationalities or to develop the necessary values for a religious society, such as compassion, sympathy, willingness to bear a hand in difficult situations, and working without being paid or recompensing small amounts of money (Cornwall et al., 2001, p.182). Various conferences, seminars, tours and even whole journeys are meant to promulgate the impact of Mormonism and enlist more members to the overall numbers of supporters. Consequently, volunteering and missionary are the peculiar characteristics that assist in spreading the Mormon doctrines and impact.
Mormonism is regarded as one of the most influential religions not only in United States, but also in the whole world. Having been founded by Joseph Smith, a forerunner and inspirer of the movement, in the early nineteenth century, Mormonism experienced various impacts and stages of development. Diverse aspects, such as alienation, family issues, polygamy, religious education and training, promotions of the religion to the global society and the increasing popularity of the movement seem to be its principal characteristics. Consequently, the main reason of choosing to explore the identities of Mormon adherents is to reveal the cultural, social and religious peculiarities of this community as even nowadays Mormonism remains to be one of the most enigmatic religions throughout the world. A representative of Mormon spiritual practice is a faithful person. He is expected to pray, worship God, and vigorously participate in the majority of church programs and other educational projects. Besides, this person holds to fulfilling the working regime and resting on Sundays, similarly to the well-known Christian dogmas. As for the cultural peculiarities, Mormons seem to have rather strong relationships inside the community. Due to their lengthy isolation and alienation from the mainstream society, the local commune succeeded in creating a special kind of culture and social communication. For instance, volunteering and missionary are considered to be the most significant cultural characteristics. People are willing to help the poor, the church and the entire community without being paid for their efforts. Proceeding with cultural specialties, maintaining healthy lifestyle is a distinctive feature of the local population. As for the marriage and gender issues, betrayal and chastity are not allowed at any circumstances. However, same-sex marriages are not prohibited until the couple is devoted to each other.
Despite the fact that the information is rather utopian and idealistic about the lifestyle and principal features of the local norms of living, various people that participated in the meeting, programs and other Mormon projects willingly share the information about their experiences and adventures in the religious communities. Besides, the global network, i.e. the Internet, is full of diverse recollections and documentaries that shed light on the essential principles of a particular religion. Different videos in social network, some recollections, interviews of the members of community or the participants of volunteering and missionary projects help the target audience understand the gist and numerous angles of the Mormonism as an influential and powerful religion. In addition, literary works or critical essays represent the written fictional or non-fictional forms of depicting the widespread religion. Thus, a person, seeking for details about Mormonism, would not have difficulties with finding the requisite information.
Obtaining knowledge about various cultures, religions and social divisions is important as people encounter diverse representatives of different communities during one’s education or work. Among them, religion, especially Mormonism, prevails. On the one hand, people of numerous faiths apperceive the world in a rather different way. They might be easily offended with one’s non-acquaintance of a particular topic or question. On the other hand, different misconceptions, connected with religious issues, might appear. For instance, being unaware of some cultural peculiarities of Mormon movement might lead to negative consequences or even conflicts. Moreover, due to the isolation and security concerns of the believers, the adherents might seem to take care of the community’s privacy. This fact can be is rather ambiguous and can cause some misapprehensions. Therefore, Mormonism is one of the most considerable religions in United States and in the whole world through the prism of its cultural and religious peculiarities.