Mormons in the United States (National Institute)
The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Religious Records - Part 2 by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Beliefs, Practices and Records
Mormons subscribe to many orthodox Christian beliefs, but they also profess several distinctive doctrines based on post-biblical revelation. The teachings and doctrines of the Church were summarized by Joseph Smith in 13 basic points which are known as The Articles of Faith
Local congregations are called wards (or branches). Individual Ordinance Summaries are maintained by ward clerks. Persons can locate a stake or ward website online from the official LDS website.
Non-members can view everything except living member information. The LDS site also provides a Meetinghouse Locator.
Mormons have a lay ministry rather than paid clergy; all Church service is voluntary. The spiritual leader of each ward is called the bishop (or the branch president for branches). He is a member of the congregation and has been asked to serve as a volunteer in this position. Most members of a congregation voluntarily share the bishop’s responsibility by serving as teachers, counselors, leaders of organizations, and clerks.
The Church’s major source of revenue is the ancient law of the tithe. Members are expected to pay 10 percent of their income to accomplish the work of the Church.
A common goal of Latter-day Saints is for a man and woman to be married in the temple, allowing their family to be together forever. For marriages performed in the temple, only a few guests are invited inside to witness the ceremony. These guests must be Church members who qualify to be in the temple.
A Latter-day Saint funeral, usually directed by the ward bishop and held in a chapel, is similar to traditional Christian funerals in practice.
Priesthood holders provide the following sacred ordinances or special blessings at different times in a Church member’s life:
1. Babies are given a special blessing shortly after they are born, in which their names are recorded and they are given words of blessing for their life on earth. It is usually performed in sacrament meeting on the first Sunday of the month.
2. Baptism: Mormons believe baptism is necessary to become a member of Christ’s kingdom or Church. The minimum age for baptism is eight, when a person is old enough to comprehend its meaning and importance. There are no requirements with regard to gender, marital status, or ethnic origin. Baptism must be done by immersion by one having the proper authority. The person is then confirmed a member of the Church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by those having the proper authority. Typically, this ordinance is performed in a Sacrament Meeting held a few days after the baptismal service. They place their hands on the head of the person being confirmed and pronounce a blessing.
3. Ordination to priesthood: Priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name. The Church has a lay priesthood, with no professional clergy. All male members of the Church who are prepared may receive the priesthood in order to help lead the Church. A young man can be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood when he is 12 years old and to the Melchizedek Priesthood when he is 18. Older men who join the Church as adults may receive the priesthood at such time as they are prepared to accept the blessings and duties of the office. Women are not ordained to the priesthood; however there are other opportunities for women to lead and serve in the Church.
4. Blessing of the sick: Just as in New Testament times, those who are sick may call upon priesthood holders for a special blessing. The person is anointed on his or her head with a few drops of olive oil that has been consecrated. Priesthood holders then lay their hands upon the person’s head, seal (or confirm) the anointing, and pronounce a blessing through the authority of the priesthood, conditional on God’s will.
Genealogy: Uniting the family beyond the grave
Of particular interest to genealogists is the motivation for members to do family history research. Members of the Church believe that the family can continue beyond the grave, not just until death. Parents and their children make special promises in sacred temples, under the authority of God. When these covenants are faithfully kept, families can be united for eternity.
Members of the church also believe that their deceased ancestors can receive this blessing of being eternally united with their families. This can be accomplished when Church members make covenants in temples in behalf of their ancestors, who may accept these covenants in the spirit world if they so choose. But the family must first identify their ancestors. For this reason, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gathered genealogical records from all over the world at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and at FamilySearch Centers all over the world.
The Family History Library
The Family History Library contains over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, more than 727,000 microfiche, and over 356,000 books, serials, and other formats. Except for the Special Collections, non-members are able to access the Library resources, either at Salt Lake City or by rental at a FamilySearch Center.
You can view a full description of the resources at the Family History Library
The resources are many and varied:
- Historical Record Collections has digitized records and indexes with billions of names across hundreds of collections—including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, and more for many countries around the world
- FamilySearch Catalog describes the library records, with book and film numbers, plus has links to digital images for many books and films
- User Submitted Genealogies (Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File)
- International Genealogical Index indexes many birth and marriage records worldwide
In addition, the Library offers many excellent research guides, available on the Research Wiki
Church members use the Special Collections to research deceased ancestors who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to confirm ordinances performed in LDS temples. A valid LDS temple recommend is required to enter Special Collections. Family Tree (part of FamilySearch) contains most of the information from LDS temple records. As described on their web site, Special Collections are made up of:
- Endowments for the living (after 1847)
- Sealings of husband and wife (early-July 1996)
- Sealings of children to parents for the living (early-July 1996)
- The Endowment Index (1842-1970) (also known as the TIB or Temple Records Index Bureau)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
47 E. South Temple Street.
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Mormon Historical Association
10 West 100 South, Suite 610
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Family History Library
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
35 North West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
To find a Family History Center near you, scroll to the Family History Centers section on the FamilySearch home page.
Cyndi’s List - LDS-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Library of Congress - Religion and the Founding of the American Republic - The Mormons
National Humanities Center - Mormonism and the American Mainstream
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses US: Religious Records - Part 2 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.