Adherents, referred to as Latter-day Saints or, more informally, Mormons, view faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement as the central tenet of their religion. LDS theology includes the Christian doctrine of salvation only through Jesus Christ, though LDS doctrines regarding the nature of God and the potential of mankind differ significantly from mainstream Christianity. The church has an open canon which includes four scriptural texts: the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Other than the Bible, the majority of the LDS canon constitutes revelation dictated by Joseph Smith and includes commentary and exegesis about the Bible, texts described as lost parts of the Bible, and other works believed to be written by ancient prophets.
Under the doctrine of continuing revelation, Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ, under the direction of Heavenly Father, leads the church by revealing His will to its president, whom adherents regard as a modern-day "prophet, seer, and revelator". The current president is Thomas S. Monson. Individual members believe that they can also receive personal revelation from God in conducting their lives. The president heads a hierarchical structure with various levels reaching down to local congregations. Bishops, drawn from the laity, lead local congregations. Worthy male members, after reaching age 12, may be ordained to the priesthood. Women do not hold positions within the priesthood, but may occupy leadership roles in Church auxiliary organizations.
Both men and women may serve as missionaries, and the church maintains a large missionary program which proselytizes and conducts humanitarian services worldwide. Faithful members adhere to laws regarding sexual purity, health, fasting, and Sabbath observance, and are asked to contribute ten percent of their income to the church as a tithe. In addition, the church teaches sacred ordinances through which adherents make covenants with God, including baptism, confirmation, the sacrament (holy communion), endowment, and celestial marriage (marriage blessings which extend beyond mortality), which are of great significance to church members....
On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois while being held on charges of treason. Because Hyrum was Joseph's successor, their deaths caused a succession crisis, and Brigham Young assumed leadership over the majority of Saints. Young had been a close associate of Smith's and was senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve. Other splinter groups, excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, followed other leaders in their own interpretation of the Latter Day Saint movement.
For two years after Smith's death, conflicts escalated between Mormons and other Illinois residents. To prevent war, Joseph Smith had predicted that the church would go to the West and be established in the tops of Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young took Smith's advice and led his followers, known in modern times as the Mormon pioneers, to Nebraska and then in 1847 to what became the Utah Territory. As groups (over 60,000) arrived over a period of years, LDS settlers branched out and colonized a large region now known as the Mormon Corridor.
Young incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity, and initially governed both the church and the state as a theocratic leader. He also publicized the sacred practice of plural marriage, a form of polygamy. By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of accusations involving polygamy and the theocratic rule of the Utah territory by Brigham Young. The Utah Mormon War ensued from 1857 to 1858, which resulted in the relatively peaceful invasion of Utah by the United States Army, after which Young agreed to step down from power and be replaced by a non-Mormon territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory.