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The Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism
Mormonism
Mormonism is the religion practiced by Mormons, and is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement. This movement was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. beginning in the 1820s as a form of Christian primitivism. During the 1830s and 1840s, Mormonism gradually distinguished itself...

, a religion started by Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith was founder of what later became known as the Latter Day Saint movement or Mormons.Joseph Smith may also refer to:-Latter Day Saints:* Joseph Smith, Sr. , father of Joseph Smith...

 during the American Second Great Awakening
Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening was a Christian revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1800, had begun to gain momentum by 1820, and was in decline by 1870. The Second Great Awakening expressed Arminian theology, by which every person could be...

. A vast majority of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) while a minority are members of other independent churches. Many Mormons are also either independent or non-practicing. The center of Mormon cultural influence is in Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, and North America has more Mormons than any other continent, though the majority of Mormons live outside the United States.

Mormons have developed a strong sense of communality that stems from their doctrine and history. They dedicate large amounts of time and resources to serving in their church, and many young Mormons choose to serve a full time proselyting
Proselytism
Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

 mission. Mormons have a health code
Word of Wisdom
The "Word of Wisdom" is the common name of a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, a book considered by many churches within the Latter Day Saint movement to consist of revelations from God...

 that eschews alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, tea, and other addictive substances. They tend to be very family-oriented, and have strong connections across generations and with extended family. Mormons have a strict law of chastity
Law of Chastity
The law of chastity is a moral code defined by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . According to the church, chastity means abstinence from sexual relations before marriage, and complete fidelity to one's husband or wife during marriage...

, requiring abstention from sexual relations outside of marriage and strict fidelity within marriage.

Mormons are sometimes associated with polygamy. The practice of polygamy (or plural marriage) was a distinguishing characteristic of many early Mormons; however it was disavowed by The LDS Church in 1890,
and discontinued over the next 15 years.
Today, polygamy is practiced only by Mormon fundamentalists who have broken with the LDS Church.

Most Mormons self-identify as Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

, though some of their beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity. Mormons believe in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, as well as other books of scripture, such as the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

. They have a unique view of cosmology, and believe that all people are spirit-children of God. Mormons believe that returning to God requires following the example of Jesus Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, and accepting his atonement through specific ordinances such as baptism. They believe the authority to perform these ordinances was restored through Joseph Smith, and that their church is guided by living prophets and apostles. Central to Mormon faith is the belief that God speaks to his children and answers their prayers.

Terminology


The term "Mormon" is borrowed from the title of the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

. It was first applied pejoratively to followers of Joseph Smith, but was soon adopted as a nickname and has since lost its pejorative status. "Mormon" is most often used to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term has also been embraced by other adherents of Mormonism, such as Mormon Fundamentalists, but rejected by other Latter Day Saint denominations, such as the Community of Christ
Community of Christ
The Community of Christ, known from 1872 to 2001 as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints , is an American-based international Christian church established in April 1830 that claims as its mission "to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace"...

.

The use of "Mormon" is not generally considered offensive and is commonly used by the LDS Church members (or "Latter-day Saints") in reference to themselves. Church leaders, however, have encouraged members to use the church's full name to emphasize the church's focus on Jesus Christ.

History


Mormons' history has shaped them into a people with a strong sense of unity and communality. From the start, Mormons have tried to establish what they call Zion
Zion (Latter Day Saints)
Within the Latter Day Saint movement, Zion is often used to connote a utopian association of the righteous. This association would practice a form of communitarian economics called the United Order meant to ensure that all members maintained an acceptable quality of life, class distinctions were...

, a utopian society of the righteous.
Mormon history can be divided into three broad time periods: (1) the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith was founder of what later became known as the Latter Day Saint movement or Mormons.Joseph Smith may also refer to:-Latter Day Saints:* Joseph Smith, Sr. , father of Joseph Smith...

, (2) a "pioneer era" under the leadership of Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

 and his successors, and (3) a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century. In the first period, Smith had tried to literally build a city called Zion, to which converts gathered. During the pioneer era, Zion became a "landscape of villages" in Utah. In modern times, Zion is still an ideal, though Mormons gather together in their individual congregations rather than a central geographic location.

Beginnings


Mormonism traces its origins to the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. on April 6, 1830 in Western New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Roughly a decade earlier, the young Joseph was seeking a remission of his sins. Confused by the doctrines of competing denominations, he went into a grove of trees to pray about which church to join. Joseph said that during his prayer, the Lord appeared to him in a "pillar of light" and instructed him not to join any of the churches. A few years later Smith said that an angel directed him to a nearby hillside where lay buried a book written on golden plates
Golden Plates
According to Latter Day Saint belief, the golden plates are the source from which Joseph Smith, Jr. translated the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of the faith...

 containing the religious history of an ancient people. Smith claimed to have translated the book, and in March 1830 he published the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, named after Mormon, the ancient prophet-historian who compiled the book. The Book of Mormon drew many initial converts to the church. Church members were later called Mormons, Latter Day Saints, or just Saints.

Smith intended to establish the city of Zion
Zion (Latter Day Saints)
Within the Latter Day Saint movement, Zion is often used to connote a utopian association of the righteous. This association would practice a form of communitarian economics called the United Order meant to ensure that all members maintained an acceptable quality of life, class distinctions were...

(or the New Jerusalem
New Jerusalem
In the book of Ezekiel, the Prophecy of New Jerusalem is Ezekiel's prophetic vision of a city to be established to the south of the Temple Mount that will be inhabited by the twelve tribes of Israel in the...

) in North America. In 1831, the church moved to Kirtland, Ohio
Kirtland, Ohio
Kirtland is a city in Lake County, Ohio, USA. The population was 6,670 at the 2000 census. Kirtland is famous for being the early headquarters of the Latter Day Saint movement.-Origins of Kirtland:...

 (the eastern boundary of Zion), and began establishing an outpost in Jackson County, Missouri
Jackson County, Missouri
Jackson County is a county located in the U.S. state of Missouri. With a population of 674,158 in the 2010 census, Jackson County is the second most populous of Missouri's counties, after St. Louis County. Kansas City, the state's most populous city and focus city of the Kansas City Metropolitan...

 (Zion's "center place"), where he planned to eventually move the church headquarters. In 1833, Missouri settlers, alarmed by the rapid influx of Mormons, expelled them from Jackson County.
After leading Zion's Camp
Zion's Camp
Zion's Camp was a paramilitary expedition of Latter Day Saints, led by Joseph Smith, Jr., from Kirtland, Ohio to Clay County, Missouri during May and June 1834 in an unsuccessful attempt to regain land from which the Saints had been expelled by non-Mormon settlers...

, an unsuccessful expedition to recover the land, Smith began building a temple
Kirtland Temple
The Kirtland Temple is a National Historic Landmark in Kirtland, Ohio, USA, on the eastern edge of the Cleveland metropolitan area. Owned and operated by the Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints , the house of worship was the first temple to be...

 in Kirtland, where the church flourished.
The Kirtland era ended in 1838, after the failure of a church-sponsored bank
Kirtland Safety Society
The Kirtland Safety Society was a quasi-bank organized in 1836 by leaders and followers of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. According to KSS's 1837 "Articles of Agreement", it was intended to serve the banking needs of the growing Mormon community in Kirtland, Ohio...

 caused widespread defections, and Smith regrouped with the remaining church in Far West, Missouri
Far West, Missouri
Far West, Missouri, was a Latter Day Saint settlement in Caldwell County, Missouri.-Foundation and early history:The town was founded by Missouri Mormon leaders, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer in August 1836 shortly before the county's creation. The town was platted originally as a square area,...

. During the fall of 1838, tensions escalated into violent conflicts with the old Missouri settlers. Believing the Saints to be in insurrection, the Missouri governor
Lilburn Boggs
Lilburn Williams Boggs was the sixth Governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840. He is now most widely remembered for his interactions with Joseph Smith and Porter Rockwell, and Missouri Executive Order 44, known by Mormons as the "Extermination Order", issued in response to the ongoing conflict...

 ordered the Saints' expulsion from Missouri. In 1839, the Saints converted a swampland on the banks of the Mississippi River into Nauvoo, Illinois
Nauvoo, Illinois
Nauvoo is a small city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. Although the population was just 1,063 at the 2000 census, and despite being difficult to reach due to its location in a remote corner of Illinois, Nauvoo attracts large numbers of visitors for its historic importance and its...

, which became the church's new headquarters.

Shortly after arriving in Nauvoo, the Saints began construction of a new temple
Nauvoo Temple
The Nauvoo Temple was the second temple constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. The church's first temple was completed in Kirtland, Ohio, United States in 1836. When the main body of the church was forced out of Nauvoo, Illinois in the...

. The city grew rapidly as missionary converts immigrated westward from Europe and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Smith introduced several doctrinal developments and organizational changes, including temple ceremonies, the doctrines of sealing
Sealing (Mormonism)
In Mormonism, a sealing is an ordinance , performed in temples by a person holding the sealing power. The purpose of this ordinance is to seal familiar relationships, making possible the existence of family relationships throughout eternity. LDS teachings place great importance on the specific...

, eternal progression
(or exaltation
Exaltation (Mormonism)
Exaltation or Eternal Life is a belief among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that mankind can return to live in God's presence and continue as families. Exaltation is believed to be what God desires for all humankind. The LDS Church teaches that through exaltation...

), plural marriage
Plural marriage
Polygamy was taught by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890.The Church's practice of polygamy has been highly controversial, both within...

,
the organization of the church into stakes
and wards, the organization of the Relief Society
Relief Society
The Relief Society is a philanthropic and educational women's organization and an official auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . It was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA and has approximately 6 million members in over 170 countries and territories...

 for women, and the Council of Fifty
Council of Fifty
The Council of Fifty was a Latter Day Saint organization established by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, an organization representing a future theodemocratic
Theodemocracy
Theodemocracy is a political system that combines elements of theocracy and democracy.One concept of theodemocracy was theorized by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement...

 "Kingdom of God" on the earth.
Smith also published the story of his First Vision
First Vision
The First Vision refers to a vision that Joseph Smith, Jr. said he received as a youth in a wooded area in Manchester, New York, which his followers call the Sacred Grove. Smith described it as a personal theophany in which he received a forgiveness of sins...

, in which the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 and the Son
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 appeared to him while he was about 14 years old.
Long after Smith's death, this vision would come to be regarded by some Mormons as the most important event in human history after the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

.

On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob
Death of Joseph Smith, Jr.
The death of Joseph Smith, Jr. on June 27, 1844 marked a turning point for the Latter Day Saint movement, of which Smith was the founder and leader. When he was attacked and killed by a mob, Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and running for President of the United States...

 in Carthage, Illinois
Carthage, Illinois
Carthage is a city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. The population was 2,725 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hancock County. Carthage is most famous for being the site of the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844.- History :...

. Because Hyrum was Joseph's logical successor, their deaths caused a succession crisis, and Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

 assumed leadership over the majority of Saints. Young had been a close associate of Smith's and was senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve
Quorum of the Twelve
In the Latter Day Saint movement, the Quorum of the Twelve was one of the governing bodies of the church hierarchy organized by the movement's founder Joseph Smith, Jr., and patterned after the twelve apostles of Christ In the Latter Day Saint movement, the Quorum of the Twelve (also known as the...

. Smaller groups of Latter Day Saints followed other leaders to form other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement
Latter Day Saint movement
The Latter Day Saint movement is a group of independent churches tracing their origin to a Christian primitivist movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the late 1820s. Collectively, these churches have over 14 million members...

.

Pioneer era



For two years after Smith's death, conflicts escalated between Mormons and other Illinois residents. To prevent war, Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

 led the Mormon pioneers (constituting most of the Latter Day Saints) to a temporary winter quarters in Nebraska and then eventually (beginning in 1847) to what became the Utah Territory
Utah Territory
The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah....

. As groups arrived over a period of years, LDS settlers branched out and colonized a large region now known as the Mormon Corridor
Mormon Corridor
The Mormon Corridor is a term for the areas of Western North America that were settled between 1850 and approximately 1890 by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , who are commonly known as Mormons....

. During the 1840s and 1850s many thousands of Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 Mormon converts immigrated to America, and followed Brigham Young in the great Mormon Migration. Today, it is estimated that around 20% of the population of Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

 is of Welsh descent.

Young incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity, and initially governed both the church and the state as a theocratic
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

 leader. He also publicized the previously-secret practice of plural marriage
Plural marriage
Polygamy was taught by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890.The Church's practice of polygamy has been highly controversial, both within...

, a form of polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

.

By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of accusations involving polygamy and the theocratic rule of the Utah territory by Brigham Young. The Utah War
Utah War
The Utah War, also known as the Utah Expedition, Buchanan's Blunder, the Mormon War, or the Mormon Rebellion was an armed confrontation between LDS settlers in the Utah Territory and the armed forces of the United States government. The confrontation lasted from May 1857 until July 1858...

 ensued from 1857 to 1858, which resulted in the relatively peaceful invasion of Utah by the United States Army. The most notable instance of violence during this war was the tragic Mountain Meadows massacre
Mountain Meadows massacre
The Mountain Meadows massacre was a series of attacks on the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train, at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. The attacks culminated on September 11, 1857 in the mass slaughter of the emigrant party by the Iron County district of the Utah Territorial Militia and some local...

, in which leaders of a local Mormon militia ordered the massacre of a civilian emigrant party who were traveling through Utah during the escalating military tensions. In 1858 Young agreed to step down from his postion as governor and was replaced by a non-Mormon, Alfred Cumming
Alfred Cumming (governor)
Alfred Cumming was appointed governor of the Utah territory in 1858 replacing Brigham Young following the Utah War...

. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory.

At Young's death in 1877, he was followed by other LDS Presidents, who resisted efforts by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 to outlaw Mormon polygamous marriages. In 1878 the Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. United States
Reynolds v. United States
Reynolds v. United States, , was a Supreme Court of the United States case that held that religious duty was not a suitable defense to a criminal indictment...

 that religious duty was not a suitable defense for practicing polygamy, and many Mormons went into hiding; later, Congress began seizing church assets. In September 1890, church president Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff, Sr. was the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1889 until his death...

 issued a Manifesto
1890 Manifesto
The "1890 Manifesto", sometimes simply called "The Manifesto", is a statement which officially disavowed the continuing practice of plural marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

 that officially suspended the practice of polygamy. Although this Manifesto did not dissolve existing plural marriages, relations with the United States markedly improved after 1890, such that Utah was admitted as a U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

. After the Manifesto, some Mormons continued to enter into polygamous marriages, but these eventually stopped in 1904 when church president Joseph F. Smith
Joseph F. Smith
Joseph Fielding Smith, Sr. was the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

 disavowed polygamy before Congress and issued a "Second Manifesto
Second Manifesto
The "Second Manifesto" was a 1904 declaration made by Joseph F. Smith, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , in which Smith stated the church was no longer sanctioning marriages that violated the laws of the land and set down the principle that those entering into or...

" calling for all plural marriages in the church to cease. Eventually, the church adopted a policy of excommunicating
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 members found practicing polygamy, and today seeks to actively distance itself from "fundamentalist" groups that continue the practice.

Modern times


During the early 20th century, Mormons began to reintegrate with the American mainstream. They emphasized patriotism and industry, rising in socioeconomic status from the bottom among American religious denominations to middle-class.
In the 1920s and 1930s Mormons began migrating out of Utah, a trend hurried by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, as Mormons looked for work wherever they could find it. As Mormons spread out, church leaders created programs that would help preserve the tight-knit community feel of Mormon culture. In addition to weekly worship services, Mormons began participating in numerous programs such as Boy Scouting, a Young Women's organization
Young Women (organization)
The Young Women is a youth organization and an official auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

, church-sponsored dances, ward basketball, camping trips, plays, and religious education programs for youth and college students.
During the latter half of the century, there was a retrenchment movement in Mormonism in which Mormons became more conservative, attempting to regain their status as a "peculiar people."
Though the 1960s
1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

 and 70s
1970s
File:1970s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: US President Richard Nixon doing the V for Victory sign after his resignation from office after the Watergate scandal in 1974; Refugees aboard a US naval boat after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975; The 1973 oil...

 brought positive changes such as Women's Liberation and the Civil Rights Movement, Mormon leaders were alarmed by the erosion of traditional values, the sexual revolution
Sexual revolution
The sexual revolution was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s into the 1980s...

, the widespread use of recreational drugs, moral relativism
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

, and other forces they saw as damaging to the family.
Partly to counter this, Mormons put an even greater emphasis on family life, religious education, and missionary work, becoming more conservative in the process. As a result, Mormons today are probably less integrated with mainstream society than they were in the early 60's.

The LDS Church grew rapidly after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and became a world-wide organization as missionaries were sent across the globe. During the Great Depression the church started a welfare program
LDS Humanitarian Services
LDS Humanitarian Services is a branch of the Welfare Services department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

 to meet the needs of poor members, which has since grown to include a humanitarian branch that provides relief to disaster victims.
In 1978, the church made another major step, reversing a policy of excluding black males from the priesthood. The church had previously been criticized for its policy during the Civil Rights Movement, but the change was prompted primarily by problems facing mixed-race converts in Brazil. Mormons greeted the change with joy and relief.
Meanwhile, the church continued to expand, doubling in size every 15–20 years. By 1996, there were more Mormons outside the United States than inside. The church currently claims a worldwide membership of 14.1 million.

Culture and practices




Isolation in Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

 had allowed Mormons to create a culture of their own. As the faith spread around the world, many of its more distinctive practices followed. Mormons converts are urged to undergo lifestyle changes, "repent of their sins," and adopt sometimes foreign standards of conduct. Practices common to Mormons include studying the scriptures, praying daily, fasting on a regular basis, attending Sunday worship services, participating in church programs and activities on weekdays, and refraining from work on Sundays when possible. Mormons also emphasize standards they believe were taught by Jesus Christ, including personal honesty, integrity, obedience to law, chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

Mormons have a strong sense of communality that stems from their doctrine and history. LDS Church members have a responsibility to dedicate their time and talents to helping the poor and building the church. The vast majority of church leadership positions are lay
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 positions, and church members may work 10–15 hours a week in unpaid church service. Engaged Mormons also contribute 10 percent of their income to the church as tithing
Tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

, and are often involved in humanitarian efforts
LDS Humanitarian Services
LDS Humanitarian Services is a branch of the Welfare Services department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

. Many LDS young men choose to serve a two year proselytizing
Proselytism
Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

 mission
Missionary (LDS Church)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the most active modern practitioners of missionary work, with over 52,000 full-time missionaries worldwide, as of the end of 2010...

, during which they dedicate all of their time to the church, without pay.

Mormons adhere to the Word of Wisdom
Word of Wisdom
The "Word of Wisdom" is the common name of a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, a book considered by many churches within the Latter Day Saint movement to consist of revelations from God...

, a health law or code that prohibits the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea, and encourages the use of wholesome herbs, grains, fruits, and a moderate consumption of meat. The Word of Wisdom is interpreted to also prohibit other harmful and addictive substances and practices, such as the use of illegal drugs and abuse of prescription drugs. Mormons also oppose addictive behavior such as viewing pornography and gambling.

The concept of a united family that lives and progresses forever is at the core of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Many Mormons hold weekly family home evenings
Family Home Evening
Family Home Evening or Family Night, in the context of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, refers to one evening per week, usually Monday, that families are encouraged to spend together in study, prayer and other wholesome activities...

, in which an evening is set aside for family bonding, study, prayer and other wholesome activities. Latter-day Saint fathers who hold the priesthood
Priesthood (LDS Church)
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , the priesthood is the power and authority to act in the name of God for the salvation of humankind...

 typically name and bless their children
Baby blessing
The naming and blessing of a child in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a non-saving ordinance, usually performed during sacrament meeting soon after a child's birth in fulfillment of the commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants: "Every member of the church of Christ having...

 shortly after birth to formally give the child a name. Mormon parents hope and pray that their children will gain testimonies of the "gospel" so they can grow up and marry in temples.

Mormons have a strict law of chastity
Law of Chastity
The law of chastity is a moral code defined by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . According to the church, chastity means abstinence from sexual relations before marriage, and complete fidelity to one's husband or wife during marriage...

, requiring abstention from sexual relations outside of marriage and strict fidelity within marriage. All sexual activity (heterosexual and homosexual) outside of marriage is considered a serious sin. Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

s are not performed or supported by the LDS Church. Church members are encouraged to marry and have children, and Latter-day Saint families tend to be larger than average. Mormons are opposed to abortions, except in some exceptional circumstances, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, or when the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy. Practicing adult Mormons wear religious undergarments
Temple garment
A Temple garment is a type of underwear worn by members of some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, after they have taken part in the Endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any previously endowed adult to enter a church temple...

 that remind them of sacred covenants and encourage them to dress modestly. Latter-day Saints are counseled not to partake of any form of media that is obscene or pornographic in any way, including media that depicts graphic representations of sex or violence. Tattoo
Tattoo
A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

s and body piercing
Body piercing
Body piercing, a form of body modification, is the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn. The word piercing can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to an opening in the body created by this act or practice...

s are also discouraged, with the exception of a single pair of earrings for LDS women.

Groups within Mormonism



Latter-day Saints
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints constitute over 99% of Mormons. The beliefs and practices of LDS Mormons are generally guided by the teachings of LDS Church leaders
First Presidency (LDS Church)
The First Presidency is the presiding or governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . It is composed of the President of the Church and his counselors. The First Presidency currently consists of President Thomas S. Monson and his two counselors, Henry B...

. There are, however, several smaller groups that differ from "mainstream" Mormonism in various ways.


Active Mormons / Less-active Mormon
Less-active Mormon
Less active and inactive are terms Mormons use to describe someone who is not participating in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but who is still on church records. Generally speaking, these are individuals who do not attend church and are not involved in church activities or callings...

s
LDS Church members who do – or do not – actively participate in worship services or church callings are called "active" or "less-active" (akin to the qualifying expressions orthodox, pious, or practicing, used in relation to members of other religious groups). The LDS Church does not release statistics on church activity, but it is likely that about 40% of Mormons in the United States and 30% worldwide regularly attend worship services.

Reasons for inactivity can include lifestyle issues and problems with social integration. Activity rates tend to vary with age, and disengagement occurs most frequently between age 16 and 25. A majority of less active members return to church activity later in life.



International Mormons

Approximately 57% of Mormons live outside of the United States. Most Mormons are distributed in North and South America, the South Pacific, and Western Europe. The global distribution of Mormons resembles a contact diffusion model, radiating out from the organization’s headquarters in Utah.

The church enforces general doctrinal uniformity, and congregations on all continents teach the same doctrines. International Mormons tend to absorb a good deal of Mormon culture, possibly because of the church's top-down hierarchy and a missionary presence. However, international Mormons often bring pieces of their own heritage into the church, adapting church practices to local cultures.



Utah Mormons
13–14% of Mormons live in Utah: the center of cultural influence for Mormonism. Utah Mormons (as well as Mormons living in the Intermountain West
Intermountain West
The Intermountain West is a region of North America lying between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Cascades and Sierra Nevada to the west. It is also called the Intermountain Region.- Topography :...

) are on average more culturally and/or politically conservative than those living in certain cosmopolitan centers elsewhere in the U.S. Utahns self-identifying as Mormon also attend church somewhat more on average than Mormons living in other states. (Nonetheless, whether they live in Utah or elsewhere in the U.S., Mormons tend to be more culturally and/or politically conservative than members of other U.S. religious groups.) Utah Mormons often place a greater emphasis on pioneer heritage than international Mormons who generally are not descendants of the Mormon pioneers.



Black Mormons
Black Mormons
Most Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . The church has never kept official records on the race of its membership, so exact numbers of black members are unknown. Black people have been members of Mormon congregations since its foundation, but before 1978 its...


Although black people have been members of Mormon congregations since Joseph Smith's time, before 1978, black membership was small. (From 1852 to 1978, the LDS Church had a policy against ordaining black
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

 men of African descent to the priesthood
Priesthood (LDS Church)
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , the priesthood is the power and authority to act in the name of God for the salvation of humankind...

.) Membership has since grown, and in 1997 there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5% of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.

Since then, Black membership has continued to grow substantially, especially in West Africa

West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, where two temples
Temple (LDS Church)
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , a temple is a building dedicated to be a House of the Lord, and they are considered by Church members to be the most sacred structures on earth. Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time...

 have been built. Many black Mormons are members of the Genesis Group
Genesis Group
The Genesis Group is a social organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for African American members and their families. It was first organized in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1971 to provide members an organization where they could affiliate with fellow African American members. ...

, an organization of black members that predates the priesthood ban, and is endorsed by the church.


LGBT Mormons
LGBT Mormons are members of the church who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. These individuals remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from homosexual relations and obey the Law of Chastity. While there are no official numbers, LDS Family Services estimates that there are on average four or five members per LDS ward who experience same-sex attraction.

Gary Watts, former president of Family Fellowship

Family Fellowship
Family Fellowship is a predominantly Latter-day Saint support group for those who have lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender family members. It was founded in 1993. As of 2003, it had a mailing list of over 1,700. The group hosts conferences, open to the public, on various subjects concerning...

, estimates that only 10% of homosexuals stay in the church. Others dispute that estimate, saying numbers in support groups for active Latter-day Saints and for self-identified gay Mormons are comparable. Many of these individuals have come forward through different support groups or websites stating their homosexual attractions and concurrent church membership.


Liberal Mormons
Liberal Mormons take an interpretive approach to LDS teachings and scripture. They look to the scriptures for spiritual guidance, but do not necessarily believe the teachings to be literally or uniquely true. For liberal Mormons, revelation is a process through which God gradually brings fallible human beings to greater understanding. Liberal Mormons place doing good and loving fellow human beings above the importance of believing correctly.

In a separate context, members of minuscule "progressive" breakaway groups have also adopted the label Liberal Mormon.



Cultural Mormons
Cultural Mormons are individuals who do not believe some (or many) of the doctrines of LDS Church, but who self-identify as Mormon. Usually this is a result of having been raised in the LDS faith, or as having converted and spent a large portion of one's life as an active member of the LDS Church. Cultural Mormons may or may not be actively involved with the church, and in some cases may not even be officially members of the church.


Fundamentalist Mormons
Fundamentalist Mormons are Latter Day Saint movement adherents who differ from mainstream Mormonism especially in their belief in the practice of plural marriage. There are thought to be between 20,000 and 60,000 members of fundamentalist sects, (0.1–0.4% of Mormons), with roughly half of them practicing polygamy.

Some fundamentalist Mormons also practice a form of Christian communalism

Christian communism
Christian communism is a form of religious communism based on Christianity. It is a theological and political theory based upon the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system...

 known as the Law of consecration
Law of Consecration
In the Latter Day Saint movement , the term law of consecration was first used in 1831 by Joseph Smith, it was a doctrine of covenanted Christian communalism....

 or the United Order
United Order
In the Latter Day Saint movement, the United Order was one of several 19th century church collectivist programs. Early versions of the Order beginning in 1831 attempted to implement the Law of Consecration, a form of Christian communism, modeled after the New Testament church which had "all things...

. The largest Mormon fundamentalist groups are the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) and the Apostolic United Brethren
Apostolic United Brethren
The Apostolic United Brethren is a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist church within the Latter Day Saint movement. The sect is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

 (AUB). The LDS Church seeks to distance itself from all such polygamous groups.


Ex-Mormon
Ex-Mormon
Ex-Mormon refers to a disaffiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any of its schismatic breakoffs, collectively called "Mormonism". Ex-Mormons, sometimes referred to as Exmo, typically neither believe in nor affiliate with the LDS church. In contrast, Jack Mormons may believe...

s
Ex-Mormons are people who have left the LDS Church. A poll of ex-Mormons found that a majority do not self-identify as a member of another faith, choosing to describe themselves as agnostic, atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

, or simply ex-Mormon. Others either retained belief in God but not in organized religion or became adherents of other faiths. Ex-Mormon attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism vary widely. Some ex-Mormons actively proselytize against Mormonism, while some provide only support to others leaving the religion. Other ex-Mormons prefer to avoid the subject entirely.

Beliefs


Mormons have a scriptural canon
Standard Works
The Standard Works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the four books that currently constitute its open scriptural canon.* The Holy Bible * The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ...

 consisting of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, and a collection of revelations and writings by Joseph Smith known as the Doctrine and Covenants
Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is a part of the open scriptural canon of several denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement...

 and Pearl of Great Price
Pearl of Great Price (Mormonism)
The Pearl of Great Price is part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and some other Latter Day Saint denominations....

. Mormons however have a fairly open
Continuous revelation
Continuous revelation or continuing revelation is a theological belief or position that God continues to reveal divine principles or commandments to humanity...

 definition of scripture
Religious text
Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition...

. As a general rule, anything spoken or written by a prophet
Prophet, seer, and revelator
Prophet, seer, and revelator is an ecclesiastical title used in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is currently applied to the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...

, while under inspiration, is considered to be the word of God. Thus, the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, written by prophets, is the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. The Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

 is also believed to have been written by ancient prophets, and is viewed as a companion to the Bible. By this definition, the teachings of Smith's successors are also accepted as scripture, though they are always measured against, and draw heavily from the scriptural canon.
Mormons believe in "a friendly universe," governed by a God whose work and glory it is to bring his children to immortality and eternal life. Mormons have a fairly unique perspective on the nature of God, the origin of man, and the purpose of life. For instance, Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence where people were literal spirit children of God. In this state, God presented a plan
Plan of salvation
According to doctrine of the Latter Day Saint movement, the plan of salvation is a plan that God created to save, redeem, and exalt humankind...

 that would allow his children to progress and become more like him. The plan involved the spirits receiving bodies on earth and going through many trials in order to learn, progress, and receive a "fulness of joy." The most important part of the plan involved Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, the eldest of God's children, coming to earth as the literal Son of God, to conquer sin and death so that God's other children could return. According to Mormons, every person who lives on earth will be resurrected, and most of them will be received into various kingdoms of glory
Degrees of glory
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' theology, there are three degrees of glory which are the ultimate, eternal dwelling place for nearly all who lived on earth after the Spirit world.Joseph Smith, Jr...

. To be accepted into the highest kingdom, a person must fully accept Christ.

Part of Mormons' accepting of Christ is done through formal covenants and ordinances. For example, covenants associated with baptism
Baptism (Mormonism)
In Mormonism, baptism is recognized as the first of several ordinances of the gospel.-Overview:Much of the theology of Mormon baptism was established during the early Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, and the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 (commonly called sacrament) involve taking the name of the Son upon themselves, always remembering Him, and keeping his commandments. Mormons perform other ordinances, such as marriages
Celestial marriage
Celestial marriage is a doctrine of Mormonism, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and branches of Mormon fundamentalism.Within Mormonism, celestial marriage is an ordinance associated with a covenant that always...

 and sealings
Sealing (Mormonism)
In Mormonism, a sealing is an ordinance , performed in temples by a person holding the sealing power. The purpose of this ordinance is to seal familiar relationships, making possible the existence of family relationships throughout eternity. LDS teachings place great importance on the specific...

 in dedicated temples.
Because Mormons believe that everyone must receive certain ordinances to be saved, Mormons perform ordinances such as baptism for the dead
Baptism for the dead
Baptism for the dead, vicarious baptism or proxy baptism is the religious practice of baptizing a living person on behalf of one who is dead, with the living person acting as the deceased person's proxy...

 on behalf of deceased persons. These ordinances are performed vicariously or by "proxy" on behalf of the dead. Mormons believe that the deceased may accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Ordinances on behalf of the dead are performed only when a deceased person's genealogical
Genealogy
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 information has been submitted to a temple.

According to Mormons, a Great Apostasy began in Christianity not long after the ascension of Jesus Christ. It was marked with the corruption of Christian doctrine by Greek
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

 and other philosophies, with followers dividing into different ideological groups. Mormons claim the martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

dom of the Apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 lead to a loss of Priesthood authority to administer the church and its ordinances.
Mormons believe that the Lord restored the early Christian
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 church through Joseph Smith. In particular, Mormons believe that angels (Gr. plur. αγγλοι="messengers")
Angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

 such as Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

, James, John
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

, and John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 appeared to Joseph Smith and others and bestowed various Priesthood authorities on them. Mormons believe that their church is the "only true and living church" because of the divine authority restored through Smith. They view other Christian churches as having a portion of the truth, doing good works, and being led by the Light of Christ
Light of Christ
The Light of Christ became a doctrine of the Latter Day Saint movement, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that most people would call conscience...

.

Though the LDS Church has a hierarchical structure with a president/prophet dictating revelations for the whole church, there is a bottom up aspect as well. Ordinary Mormons have access to the same inspiration that is thought to guide their prophets. Mormons see Joseph Smith's first vision
First Vision
The First Vision refers to a vision that Joseph Smith, Jr. said he received as a youth in a wooded area in Manchester, New York, which his followers call the Sacred Grove. Smith described it as a personal theophany in which he received a forgiveness of sins...

 as proof that the heavens are open, and that God answers prayers. They place considerable emphasis on "asking God" to find out if something is true. Most Mormons do not claim to have had heavenly visions like Smith's in response to prayers, but feel that God talks to them in their hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

. Though Mormons have many beliefs that are considered strange in the modernized world, as well as a complicated and sometimes controversial history, they continue to hold onto their beliefs because they feel God has spoken to them.

See also


  • List of sects in the Latter Day Saint movement: Followers of Brigham Young

External links


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    • Mormonism portal

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