Mormons In America

A statue of Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stands in the center of Salt Lake City with the Mormon Temple spires in the background 19 July 2001. Salt Lake City will be the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics. GETTY

Most of us probably know very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormon church -- other than the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Well, today, you may have a Mormon family living right down the block.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, is Mormon as is Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts and a possible presidential candidate. The Marriott family, who owns the hotel chain is also Mormon.

There are now almost six million members in the United States and an additional six million overseas. Temples can be found from Los Angeles to Boston to Washington, DC, reports Sunday Morning host Charles Osgood.

There is even a Mormon temple right here in midtown Manhattan across the street from Broadway and Lincoln Center. The Church is growing so fast in membership in this country, it now ranks behind Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and United Methodists.

Susan and Matt Royall live in northern Virginia with her two daughters from a previous marriage. She is expecting a third child. Matt was raised Catholic, but the Royalls were looking for a new spiritual home.

"I grew up Episcopalian," Susan says. "I didn't know anything about Mormons. I really didn't.

"And when the missionaries walked through that door, it was like, 'Ah.' It was just like a breath of -- it was like the breath of life just came into me," Susan intimates.

The experience left an indelible imprint on Susan's life. She recalls of her first encounter with the Mormon missionaries, "I was like, 'O my gosh, it's like my skin is on fire.' That was the feeling I wanted from the other churches but never had."

Her husband, Matt, adds, "It was a feeling we had. It was so powerful."

Matt and Susan were baptized into the Church in April 2004.

"My religion now is the center of my life," Susan says.

The Royalls say what attracted them were the stories in the Book of Mormon, which the Church considers a companion to the Bible. Each summer the book comes to life in a pageant in upstate New York near where the Church was founded.
  • Sean Alfano

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