Religious Beliefs. The Mormon religion is based on Judeo-Christian Scriptures (the Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, said to be a scriptural account of events in the New World between 600 B.C. and A.D. 421, and teaching believed to have come to their prophets through divine revelation as reported in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. The Mormons believe in a three-person Godhead, the immortality of the human spirit, and salvation of the soul through baptism, proper behavior, and repentance of sin. They believe they have the "gifts" or powers outlined in the New Testament including those of healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy. They also believe that Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth. Like many modern religions, there are conflicts within the church regarding religious interpretation and the degree of literalness with which the scriptures should be regarded.
Religious Practitioners. There is no professional Priesthood within the Mormon church. Rather, any "worthy" practicing Mormon male may become a priest when he reaches the age of twelve or so. There are two levels of the priesthood: the Aaronic, or lower, priesthood and the Melchizidek, or higher, priesthood. Ideally, boys enter the Aaronic priesthood at the age of twelve and move through the three offices within this priesthood (deacon, teacher, priest) by the age of twenty. "Worthy" adult males enter the Melchizidek priesthood, which also has three offices (elder, seventy, and high priest). Members of the higher priesthood have greater authority and wider ritual prerogatives than do members of the lesser Priesthood.
Ceremonies. Mormons believe that "worship is the voluntary homage of the soul." Religious services are relatively sedate and involve prayer, singing, and blessings. Baptism and the marriage ceremony are particularly important ceremonies, and individual prayer is a central element of many Mormons' lives. Private religious ceremonies may be more elaborate and emotional than public ones.