What Makes Mormonism So Attractive?

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Over its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown from a very small group of members to numbering nearly 16 million members as of the last report in April 2017. Mormons attract non-religious and religious persons into their ranks. They boast members in almost every nation on earth and have more than 30,000 individual local gathering units called wards and branches. Latter-day Saints come from every social-economic, political, and cultural background. One question naturally arises: Put differently, what do non-Mormons see in Mormonism that makes them want to convert? Three answers to these questions rise to the forefront.

1. Family First

Mormonism is attractive because it is centered around the family. To say Latter-day Saints are family-oriented would, although true, be an understatement and simplification of a complex issue. Mormons are not simply family-oriented; they are completely, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly devoted to the family as the central focus of all of life, both temporally and eternally. Many people know of, or have seen, Mormon temples where they live, while on trips, or in pictures or videos. Much mystery surrounds these structures, but they are virtually devoted to one aspect of Latter-day Saint life––the family.

Within LDS temples, various ceremonies are held and ordinances are performed. Baptism for the dead, ordinances (times of instruction and practice), and sealings are the three main ceremonies which take place in temples, and all three of those are centered around the family. In temples, husbands and wives are sealed together for time and eternity, and parents are sealed to their children for time and eternity. Faithful Mormons believe those sealings bind families together forever. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spends millions of dollars constructing temples around the world, and some faithful Latter-day Saints might have to travel hundreds of miles to get to a temple. All the work and effort is focused on the family. Similarly, faithful Latter-day Saints spend at least one night per week centered on “Family Home Evening.” This weekly time is for children to be taught by parents, for the family to play games together, to sing songs together, and to enjoy each other as a family. Likewise, Sundays are reserved in faithful Latter-day Saint homes for congregational worship and instruction at the local meeting house and for family time. Often, no secular activities, sometimes including eating out at a restaurant, are performed by committed Mormon families on Sunday because the day is reserved for worship and family. If a person is devoted to his or her family, then it is easy to see why Mormonism would be attractive.

2. American and Conservative

Mormonism is also attractive because Mormons are staunchly American and very conservative in social beliefs, politics, and appearance. Many times, Mormon families are reminiscent of the works of well-known American artist Norman Rockwell. White picket fences, children playing with a dog in the yard, conservative values, and an American flag are all usual descriptions of a typical Mormon home. Independence Day events in Utah are some of the most spectacular experiences many have ever encountered.

Mormons are not only extremely patriotic, they are also very conservative socially and politically. Some of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are faithful Latter-day Saints. Though there are a small number of exceptions, any time issues dealing with homosexuality or marriage are a topic of debate or conversation anywhere in the U.S. (or around the world), Latter-day Saints almost always fall on the traditional / conservative side of the discussion. Often, their stance on political and social issues centers around their understanding of the traditional family as key and on their beliefs in the traditional relationship between male and female. Similarly, the majority of Latter-day Saints are clean cut and modest in their dress. Men usually do not have beards or long hair and often wear white dress shirts with a suit and tie. Women do not wear clothing that would expose even their shoulders, usually wear longer skirts or dresses, and keep their hair neat and long. Anyone, then, searching for something traditional, American, and conservative usually finds a welcoming home inside Mormonism.

3. Important Answers

Finally, Mormonism is attractive because it answers questions many other religions cannot, or do not, answer. Unfortunately, most of these questions come from Christians, and the answers they hear make them question their beliefs. For example, it is difficult to discern exactly what Paul means when he discusses baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29. Some Christians wrestle with that verse, but Mormons believe the answer given by Joseph Smith about baptism for the dead in temples perfectly answers any question or concern about the text. Another example is found in 2 Corinthians 12:2, a passage in which Paul writes about a man caught up to the “third heaven.” Although interpretation of this passage can be difficult, Mormons believe wholeheartedly in their answer of three varying kingdoms of glory in the afterlife.

Mormons also love answering questions about which religion, or denomination, is correct, why their leaders are considered prophets, and why they have the complete truth when compared to any other religious body. Put simply, they are willing to answer questions that many other faith traditions simply cannot or (for whatever reason) do not answer.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is attractive for many reasons other than the three listed above, but it seems, at least anecdotally, these are three of the main reasons many persons find solace inside Mormonism. Though as Christians we ultimately rely on God’s power at work through the gospel, knowing why Mormonism is attractive can help us answer anyone who asks us to given an account for the hope within us. We must do so, as Peter says, with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Travis Kerns serves with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as the Send City Missionary for Salt Lake City, Utah. He was born and raised in Greenville, SC, but has lived in the Salt Lake City area since 2013. He has a B.A. from North Greenville University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. studies focuses on world religions, specifically, Mormon philosophy. Prior to serving with NAMB, he was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and taught in the areas of apologetics, world religions, and philosophy.
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