Because only couples who have been married, or "sealed," in a Mormon temple can achieve the highest realm of heaven, there are also rituals for posthumous weddings.
Everyone is welcome to attend regular Sunday services in Mormon meeting rooms, known as wards. But Mormon authorities aim to keep their temples sacred by excluding nonbelievers. (They won't allow outsiders even to attend a son's or daughter's temple wedding.)
Practicing Mormons must be screened every two years by their bishops, who will ask questions such as: Do you believe in God and Christ? Are you giving 10% of your income to the church? Are you chaste? Are you honest? Do you smoke or drink? Those who pass get a "temple recommend" that allows them to participate in sacred rituals.
What are those sacred rituals?
Men and women of good standing undergo a ritual cleansing ceremony when they reach maturity, usually about age 20. They also go through an "endowment session" when they are instructed in rules for faithful living. The temples are also used for weddings and for baptism, marriage and endowment ceremonies for the dead.
Don't Mormons have to wear special underwear?
At the time of their ritual cleansing (known as "washing and anointing"), both men and women are given temple garments, which look like a boxers-and-T-shirt set embroidered with sacred symbols. Mormons are expected to wear their garments daily, though not every minute. The garments are supposed to remind them of their promises to God and thus provide spiritual protection.
Who can become a Mormon priest?
The Mormon Church has no paid clergy. Most boys in good standing are named deacons at age 12. (They act like altar servers in a Roman Catholic church, passing bread and water used in communion.) At 16, most boys become priests and can bless the sacrament. At 19, they're ordained as elders and generally sent off for two years of missionary work. Women can serve as missionaries but are never priests.
The church is led by a president who is considered a living prophet, a member of an unbroken chain of prophets including Joseph Smith and stretching back to Jesus Christ. The president governs the church with two counselors and 12 apostles, all males. All can receive divine revelation. In 1978, for instance, the church president said God revealed a need to end the practice of excluding blacks from the priesthood, even though the Book of Mormon describes dark skin as a divine mark of disfavor.
What was Romney's role in the church?
Romney served two years as a missionary in France.
In the mid-1980s he was the bishop of his church in Belmont, Mass. In that role (which is unpaid but hugely time-consuming), he would have organized Sunday services, counseled members in crisis and distributed charitable funds. He conducted the interviews to determine who could enter the temple.
Romney also served nine years as "stake president," a largely administrative role that involved overseeing about a dozen local churches.
He no longer has a formal position in the church, but continues to practice faithfully and tithe 10% of his income.
Do Mormons practice polygamy?
Joseph Smith taught that men could take multiple wives, and some early Mormons did. Non-Mormon authorities vigorously fought the practice, and the church officially ended it in 1890. Members who take more than one wife are excommunicated.
Are Mormons Christians?
Many denominations do not consider Mormons to be Christians. Some call the faith a cult. Mormons say they are Christians because they accept Jesus Christ as their savior.
Where can I get more information about the faith?
The church sponsors two websites, www.lds.org and www.mormon.org. The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, a group that defends Mormon theology, offers details at www.fairlds.org.