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Often known as the Latter Day Saints, the LDS Church, or simply as the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by far the largest of the Mormon bodies.

In many ways, the LDS Church is the most distinctive of the Abrahamic religious groups. Although its roots are in Christianity, LDS scriptures, doctrine, and practices are unique among Christian denominations.

Nevertheless, they were one of the fastest growing religious movements in the 20th century. In 2012, the National Council of Churches ranked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States.

The LDS Church holds that the authentic Church had gone underground for several centuries before it was restored through revelations given to Joseph Smith, who published the Book of Mormon in the 1820s, which is included in its canon, along with the King James Version of the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

The early years of the LDS Church was centered on Joseph Smith, who was viewed as a prophet. With six charter members, Smith organized the movement in New York, at the time of the Second Great Awakening.

Smith claimed to have been visited by God and Jesus, who informed him that the existing Christian churches were in error and that he was to reestablish God's true church on earth. Another angel, named Moroni, led him to a place where he found an ancient book printed on gold plates, left there by a prophet named Mormon. Moroni also gave Smith a seer stone which allowed him to translate plates, which were written in hieroglyphics. This became the Book of Mormon.

Smith returned the gold plates to the angel, but eleven witnesses testified to having viewed them before they were returned.

In 1829, Peter, James, and John came to Smith, bestowing on him and Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, the Priesthood of Melchizedek, as well as the keys of apostleship.

Early on, the Latter Day Saints faced opposition, both within and without the church.

Attempting to settle in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, violence followed them, intensifying after Smith announced his intention to run for the presidency. With some involvement by factions among the Saints, Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were shot to death in Illinois in 1844.

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles appointed Brigham Young president of the Quorum, which took control of the church, moving them to Utah Territory. There were objections, and some among the leadership withdrew to form new church bodies, some of which continue today.

In 1852, Young announced the practice of polygamy, saying that it had been sanctioned by Smith prior to his death. Following the Civil War, the federal government began a strong campaign against Mormon polygamy. In 1887, the church was unincorporated and its properties were confiscated. This, as well as a desire for Utah to become a state, led to the LDS Church discontinuing the practice.

This led to the formation of other breakaway denominations.

In some ways, the LDS Church is a conservative Protestant denomination, but other aspects of its doctrine and practices depart greatly from traditional Christianity.

The LDS believe that Jesus Christ appeared in North America before ascending into heaven. He preached to the Tribe of Judah, which had fled to North America prior to the Babylonian Captivity.

They also teach that the three persons who make up the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are distinct and separate individuals and that only the Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bone.

Ordinances observed by the LDS Church include faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord's Supper each Sunday. Baptism is considered necessary for salvation.

The Saints also practice baptism for the dead, based on the belief that those who have died without a chance to hear or accept the gospel cannot be condemned. This ordinance is performed with a living person standing in for the dead.

Adultery, pre-marital sex, and homosexual activities are prohibited. The Saints also abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco, and encourage the use of wholesome foods.

All young men in the LDS Church are expected to complete a two-year, full-time missionary service, which they must fund themselves or with the assistance of their families. It is not compulsory but strongly encouraged, particularly for LDS men.

Originally known as the Church of Christ, the denomination went through several name changes, including the Chuch of Jesus Christ, the Church of God, and the Church of Latter Day Saints, before incorporating with the hyphenated "Latter-day" and a lower-case "d."



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