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Your quick A-to-Z guide to Mormonism


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Virgin birth• Like many Christians, Mormons believe that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a virgin when he was born. Unlike Catholics, though, Latter-day Saints teach that Mary was not a perpetual virgin. They believe she later had children by her earthly husband, Joseph.

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Word of Wisdom • Good Mormons don’t drink and don’t smoke. They don’t consume coffee or tea either. Perhaps no other LDS teaching can so visibly "out" Latter-day Saints. At cocktail parties, they’re downing Sprite. At restaurants, they do the "Mormon flip," turning over their coffee cups. These behaviors are rooted in the Word of Wisdom, the faith’s health code. Issued by Joseph Smith in 1833, it teaches Mormons to eschew alcohol, tobacco and "hot drinks," which church leaders subsequently described as "coffee and tea." Many members presume the ban on coffee and tea is because both beverages contain caffeine, so they avoid, say, Mountain Dew or Pepsi or Coke. But LDS leaders have reaffirmed their longtime stance that the only prohibited drinks are alcohol, coffee and tea. So caffeinated colas are kosher.

Young• As in Brigham. He is called the Mormon Moses because he led the exodus of Latter-day Saints from Illinois to a promised land: the Salt Lake Valley. He became the faith’s second president after Joseph Smith’s murder. In Utah, he rose to territorial governor and colonized much of the West — establishing settlements stretching from San Bernardino to Las Vegas to Logan and points in between and beyond. He died in 1877 at age 76 after leading the church for nearly 30 years as president, the longest tenure of any Mormon prophet.

Zion • For Mormons, Zion can be a particular place where the saints live. At various times in LDS history, for instance, Zion has been Kirtland, Ohio; Jackson County, Mo.; Nauvoo, Ill.; and Salt Lake City. Zion also can be any place where the saints live — from Tokyo to Tooele, Albania to Zimbabwe. And Zion can be an attitudinal place because Mormon scripture describes it as the "pure in heart."

Sources: Encyclopedia of Mormonism, lds.org, Salt Lake Tribune archives


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