Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon or LDS church, constitute an organization that transcends simple denominational status. Though the Mormons were originally one of a multitude of restorationist churches emerging out of the ferment known as the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century, a number of factors conspired to forge an entity variously considered a religion, a people, a global tribe, and a New Religious Movement (NRM), the only "indigenously derived ethnic group" in the United States and an emerging world religion. Mormonism's distinctive doctrines challenge the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy, while a history of persecution and exile fostered a close-knit Mormon community with fierce intragroup loyalties. In addition, authoritarian leadership and superefficient worldwide correlation of all church programs and instructional materials establish an uncommon degree of uniformity and conformity, while unusually intense requirements of sacrifice, commitment, lifestyle practices, and service far surpass the norms of a nominal, Sunday-only, Christian observance. One of the fast growing churches in the world, Mormonism has enjoyed a colorful history characterized by charismatic beginnings, new scripture, and violent confrontation with its host society that gradually has transformed into its current position of utmost respectability in mainstream American society. Once condemned by non-Mormon preachers and politicians, Mormons are now lauded by observers as "the American religion" and praised by presidents and public figures for their family values, clean living, healthy lifestyle, and humanitarian outreach to members and nonmembers alike.

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Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America by Eugene V. Gallagher, ed., W. Michael Ashcraft, ed. Copyright © 2006 by Eugene V. Gallagher and William M. Ashcraft. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.