What Do Mormons Believe?

According to the Book of Mormon, after Jesus' resurrection he visited America.

ByABC News
August 22, 2012, 12:02 PM

Aug. 22, 2012 — -- The Mormon faith is a creation of America. Born out of upstate New York, the church now claims to be the fastest-growing on the planet.

It is a religion that has faced enormous amounts of repression, but is now on the verge of a seminal moment as one of its own is poised to be nominated for president.

However, even as Mitt Romney gets ready to take center stage at the Republican National Convention, Mormonism remains a mystery to many.

Inside the imposing temples run by men believed to have a direct line to God, secret rituals are performed, rituals so sacred that non-Mormons cannot enter.

Members of the Mormon faith are keenly aware that they are sometimes seen as a source of mystery and suspicion, which, in part, is why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints launched a public relations campaign with the message: "We're your neighbors."

Mormons, who make up just 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, a percentage that is roughly equal to the number of Jews and double that of Muslims and Buddhists, are trying to be more open.

However, Mitt Romney, America's best-known Mormon, who once held one of the highest positions in the church, has rarely mentioned the word "Mormon" during this campaign.

So, given all the mystery and misconceptions, what is it that Mormons say they believe?

Here are answers to three common questions:

1. Why So Much Secrecy?

It is rooted in a painful past, according to Brigham Young University assistant professor J. Spencer Fluhman, a practicing Mormon and author of the upcoming book, "A Peculiar People."

"I don't think Mormon secrecy can be seen apart from a very bitter history of anti-Mormonism," said Fluhman. "Mormons carry with them a communal memory of persecution."

In the early days of the church, the Mormons were violently driven from state to state and their founding prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered by an angry mob.

2. What Do They Believe?

In the Mormon faith, the Bible is considered the word of God, but Mormons also believe God did not stop speaking and that he also spoke to Joseph Smith.

Smith's encounter with God is said to have happened when he was a young man in upstate New York. Smith claimed an angel led him to a nearby hill, where he dug up a pair of golden plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon.

Mormons, like BYU professor Robert Millet, are well aware that adding on to the Bible can be controversial.

"Latter-day saints love and adore the Holy Bible," Millet told ABC News. "But we've announced it is not the end of the prophets. God still speaks."

3. What About Jesus?

Uniquely in the Mormon faith, it is believed that a tribe of ancient Israelites came to America 600 years before Christ. Every summer, hundreds of the faithful act out the story on the same hill where Smith is believed to have dug up the golden plates.

After Jesus' resurrection, according to the Book of Mormon, he visited America. In fact, America plays a special role in Mormonism. Mormons believe that when Jesus returns to Earth, he will first go to Jerusalem and then to Missouri.

"Mormons think they have a distinctive message. They have always thought that," Fluhman said. "But at the same time, the proximity to traditional Christianity is clear and obvious. So Mormons have a complicated relationship with traditional Christianity, I think is an easy way to say it."