Unique American Religions
A few interesting religions began in the United States, including Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Amish religion did not originate in the United States, but this interesting cultural group is now only found in the U.S. (and a bit of Canada).
Though these three religions are very different, they are all based in the U.S., so I’ve received many questions about them from LinguaTrek readers. All three of these religions are based in Christianity.
Read more to learn about these interesting religious groups!
Joseph Smith, who is now viewed as a Mormon prophet, established the Mormon religion in the 1820’s in New York. Mormons believe that the Angel Moroni spoke to Joseph Smith and showed him how to translate the Book of Mormon from a set of golden plates he found in a buried box.
The Book of Mormon describes the indigenous people of the Americas as Israelites who believed in the coming of Jesus Christ hundreds of years before he was even born. Needless to say, this rewriting of genetic history is often viewed as controversial.
Today, there are many branches of Mormonism, but 99% of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or LDS). The LDS group followed Brigham Young to Utah after Joseph’s Smith death, mainly to escape persecution. In Utah today, the LDS have an isolated and rich culture based on a series of precise rituals, high moral standards and volunteerism and humanitarian/missionary efforts.
Many people believe that most Mormons practice polygyny, but this isn’t true. Even though Joseph Smith originally taught polygyny as part of Mormonism, only a minority of Mormons (known as Mormon Fundamentalists) still practice.
Today there are over 14 million Mormons throughout the world.
Ironically, all the Mormons I've met were in Poland. :-)
Jehovah’s Witnesses grew out of a Bible study group in Pittsburgh in 1870, but were not called Jehovah’s Witnesses until 1931. The Jehovah’s Witness religion originated from a rejection of many concepts traditionally viewed as mainstream Christian.
The main belief system revolves around a focus on Armageddon and Judgement Day. They believe a small group of “anointed” followers (only exactly 144,000 people) will go to heaven. After the end of the world, the rest of the “saved” will live in an earthly paradise. All others simply cease to exist. They also do not believe in Hell.
The Memorial (of Christ’s death) ceremony is the only holiday that Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate. They don’t even celebrate birthdays! At the Memorial, a small number partake in the eating of bread and drinking of wine, a symbolic representation of Christ’s body and blood, consumed in remembrance of Christ’s death for the sins of his people.
Today, there are over 8 million practitioners worldwide, with over 18 million in attendance each year for the Memorial ceremony.
The Amish people actually came from Switzerland to the USA (mainly Pennsylvania) around 1730, and now mainly occupy many areas of the United States. Most people are very curious about the Amish because they’re a very isolated culture that is very different than mainstream America.
The Amish are mostly known for a very simple way of life: they dress simply, live modestly, and reject modern conveniences and technologies. They do not use phones, computers, cars, or even electricity! Unsurprisingly, the Amish do not have a website. ;-) But I did find this helpful FAQ page.
The Amish use the Bible as a guide for their humble lifestyle. They emphasize church and family above all else. Because the Amish are dedicated to manual labor, they are well known for their craftsmanship. The Amish sell high-quality, handmade products like quilts and furniture.
When my friend Kasia visited the States, she made a video about her experience visiting an Amish area. Check it out!
There are about 250,000 Amish people living in the U.S. and Canada today.
What interests you most about these unique American religions? What other U.S. religions do you find interesting? Leave a comment below!