Underwear, vigilantes and planets: Things we now know about Mormons

A women holds up a I love Mormon sign in Salt Lake City Image copyright AP

The Mormon church chose to publicise the news that its founder, Joseph Smith, practised polygamy in an essay on its website.

The piece is one of several written to provide accurate information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to its followers.

Many are on secretive and sensitive subjects that have been ridiculed outside the religion.

Special underwear

None more so than the issue of Temple garments - simple white underwear resembling shorts and a T-shirt which Mormons are encouraged to keep from public view.

Image copyright AP

In an unusually frank explanation of the garments, a video describes them as being like clothing worn to denote other religions, such as the habit worn by a nun or the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk.

Jokes that Mormons believe the garments have special powers or references to them as "magical Mormon underwear" are described as offensive.

"There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments," says the commentary.

Image copyright AP

Vigilantes?

Describing how early Mormons were persecuted in the 1830s and 1840s, another essay describes how followers set up an armed militia called the Danites.

But, the essay argues, this was in the context of many other militias operating at the time and rumours of a "secret society of Mormon vigilantes" are unfounded.

The essay also describes how in 1857 Mormon vigilantes ambushed and killed 120 emigrants, including women and children, in what is known as the mountains meadows massacre.

"In recent years, the Church has made diligent efforts to learn everything possible about the massacre," says the essay, also mentioning other acts of violence the church had previously not acknowledged.

Their own planet?

"I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet," sing the lyrics of the Broadway show, The Book of Mormon.

Image copyright Getty Images

The popular notion that Mormons believe they will receive their own planet when they die is tackled in the essay, "Becoming Like God".

It says Mormons believe humans can become like God in eternity but the "cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets" is not how they see it.

"Church members imagine exaltation less through images of what they will get and more through the relationships they have now and how those relationships might be purified and elevated," it says.

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