Top 10 American Religions, part one
Religion in America
The United States is well-known for its emphasis on religious freedom, both politically and culturally. Religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of the American republic, and has always been considered by Americans to be one of their most important traditions. Not only have countless belief systems from around the world come to the US, but a diverse group of faith communities have also been born in America. These are the top ten American-born religions and religious traditions, in order of influence and size.
Adventism is a Protestant movement that was begun in the 19th century. It was led by William Miller, a preacher who famously predicted the second coming of Christ for 1844. When the date came and went, the non-event was dubbed the "Great Disappointment," and Miller's movement lost a large number of followers.
In 1845 a conference was held among the movement's remaining followers in Albany, New York, and Adventism was formally born. The Seventh-day Adventists were one of four main groups that emerged from the conference. Ellen White, who began having visions soon after the Great Disappointment, was a prolific writer on a variety of topics, and one of the most notable early leaders of Seventh-day Adventism. The Seventh-day Adventist church was formally established in 1863.
Seventh-day Adventists share many core beliefs with Protestantism. Unique beliefs and practices include holding the Sabbath on Saturday; the idea that humans are an indivisible unity of body, mind and soul and the soul is not immortal; and that the second coming of Christ is imminent.
Today they are the largest church within the Adventist movement. There are over 16 million Seventh-day Adventists in the world, with tens of thousands more belonging to other Adventist communities. The Seventh-day Adventists are one of the largest single religious bodies in the world, by number of members, and their membership is significantly dispersed among countries.
Seventh-day Adventist church
Mormonism traces its history to the movement founded by Joseph Smith in the 1820s in New York. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is by far the largest faith community within the Mormon tradition, with about 14 million members around the world.
Joseph Smith was believed to have had visions of God and Jesus Christ, and established what followers believed was the true Christian church. Smith dictated the Book of Mormon, which claimed that early Native Americans were actually Israelites who had received Jesus' message long ago. Upon the revelations of Joseph Smith, the original church was reestablished and its prophets and apostles (including Smith himself and Brigham Young) enjoy significant doctrinal authority.
Persecuted in New York and the Midwest, the vast majority of Mormons eventually settled in Utah in the mid 19th century. By the early 20th century, the mainstream LDS Church had given up polygamy under heavy pressure from the rest of American society and the US government. Today polygamy is still practiced by isolated Mormon fundamentalist communities, as are other traditions such as racist restrictions on the participation of black members, eliminated by the mainstream church in the 1970s in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement.
Mormonism has more or less entered the American religious mainstream. Today well-known Mormons include television and radio opinionator Glenn Beck and Massachusetts Governor and Presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Mormon Temple in San Diego
Next in the series is Part Two, which lists the third, fourth and fifth most significant American-born religions.