A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Utah is still the place to go if you’re looking for Mormons. Just under 40 percent of the Mormons in the United States live there. If you can’t make it to Utah, almost anywhere in the west will do. Three-fourths of America’s Mormons live in the western United States.
Worldwide, there are more Mormons outside the United States than there are inside it. There are about 14.7 million Mormons in the world and approximately 6.3 million of them live in the United States. Membership in other countries is rising steadily—but then again, so is membership in the United States. The population is moving into other portions of the country as members move or are converted.
Studies show that although people seemed to ignore much of the tremendous amount of publicity The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”) has been generating lately, the number of people using positive terms to describe Mormons is gradually increasing. Knowing a Mormon increases the likelihood that positive terms will be used, since those people are basing their opinion on actual knowledge, rather than gossip concerning what Mormons are like.
How to Study Mormonism
Many rumors and misconceptions circulate, and it can be difficult for a person who wants to really understand Mormons to figure out what is accurate. Information that comes from people who have never been Mormon is usually incorrect. It is very hard to write about other faiths because we seldom understand the big picture that helps all the small pieces fit together in a way that makes sense. When I am learning about someone else’s faith, I first ask them to explain the foundational stories on which all other teachings are based. Whether or not I believe the foundational story isn’t important. I ask myself, “If I believed this foundation, would I then need to believe this other doctrine?” This helps me to see their faith through a respectful lens and to understand that doctrines that might seem odd in isolation seem completely sensible in context.
Talking to someone who left the faith is usually not the best choice, either. My experience is that these people often still don’t really understand how the pieces fit together and often aren’t aware of the differences between cultural beliefs and actual doctrine. When I want to learn about any faith, I always go to believing and practicing members who spend a lot of time studying and living their beliefs. I find that to be responsible.
Mormonism Free Online
If you don’t happen to know a practicing and believing Mormon or don’t know if anyone you know is one, a safe place to begin your study is at Mormon.org. This is an official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints designed to provide a very basic introduction to Mormonism. It will provide you with that foundation we’ve been discussing. There, you can also do an online chat with missionaries who can answer your sincere questions. They aren’t there to debate. They are there to inform.
If you want to see Mormonism as Mormons are seeing it, visit LDS.org. This is also an official website, but it is largely designed for actual Mormons. This will give you a fascinating glimpse into what real Mormons are being taught about their own faith. You can even read both the teacher and student versions of the curriculum used in their classes. You can read their official magazines online at no charge. You’ll be able to review a long list of doctrines and even read their policy handbook. You’ll be hard put to find another faith as open about what they really teach their people as are the Mormons.
Of course, as Mormons begin to be more commonly found throughout the world, you will have a better chance of watching a living example of Mormonism—your neighbors, classmates, and co-workers. This will allow you to see Mormonism in action.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.