Sunday, April 20, 2008

Who Are the Real Mormons?

The Mormons have been in the news recently, much to their dismay. Why? Polygamy again. Try as they will, the Mormons just can't seem to shake their inextricable association with polygamy. Throughout my life, whenever people heard I was Mormon they would ask about polygamy. My responses would range from puzzled to irritated. I was raised Mormon and knew nothing about it. Polygamy was something from the past and I wished people would just forget about it.

Mormons, of course, know that the church practiced polygamy up until 1890. The revelation commanding polygamy, Doctrine and Covenants section 132, is still a very important one in the church since it also reveals the principle of eternal marriage which remains a central tenet of the church. So, while most Mormons are still comfortable with polygamy as an acceptable, theoretical, eternal practice, they are secretly and sometimes openly relieved that the church abandoned the principle long ago and that they don't have to live it in this life. But, they do understand that in the eternities men will have multiple wives. The men have no problem with this, but many women, my wife included, have no desire to share their husbands in this life or the next one.

Every time Mormon polygamists make the headlines, the mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sends out press releases reminding the media that there is no such thing as Mormon fundamentalists or polygamous Mormons and that any Mormons caught practicing polygamy are excommunicated and therefore no longer Mormon. For example, the following new release claims:
Elder Cook said it is very confusing to the public when some media use “Mormon” to describe the Texas-based polygamous group that is currently under investigation for possible incidents of child abuse. He reiterated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with over 13 million members worldwide, is not connected in any way to sects that practice polygamy.
I'm sure Elder Cook wishes this were true, unfortunately it isn't. What is confusing to the media and the public at large is why Elder Cook thinks that a group that follows Joseph Smith, believes in all of the Mormon scriptures and doctrines, and follows the church's 19th century prophets shouldn't be called Mormons. It's not at all clear why the LDS church should get to define who is and isn't Mormon any more than why evangelical Christians should get to decide who is and isn't Christian.

What is also confusing is his claim that the LDS don't practice polygamy. For example, Elder Dallin Oaks, an apostle in the church, is a practicing polygamist and has been open about it. His practice is in compliance with the law because his first wife is dead, but Mormons believe that marriages are eternal and he believes he is still married to his first wife as well as his second wife that he married a year after his first wife's death and looks forward to an eternal life with at least two wives, possibly more if God smiles on him and gives him even more wives in the afterlife.

The church officially stopped practicing polygamy in 1890, but continued to secretly perform polygamous marriages until 1906 when they were caught and had to issue a 2nd Manifesto discontinuing polygamy again. But they never renounced the doctrine of polygamy and the reality is that they simply reformed the practice from a temporal practice to an eternal practice in order to comply with the law.

So, when the Mormon church claims to no longer practice polygamy it is at best a half truth, which is also known in some circles as a lie. When Elder Cook states that the church is "connected in any way to sects that practice polygamy" he is clearly lying because one of his fellow apostles is a polygamist by the church's own definitions.

Now, about those Fundamentalist Mormons or FLDS that the church would prefer that the media not refer to as Mormons. Where did they come from? Well, prior to 1890 the Mormon prophets repeatedly said that polygamy was an eternal principle and that the practice would never be discontinued and that if it ever was then the church would be in apostasy. So, when the church stopped practicing polygamy some members believed that it was evidence that the leadership had apostatized and fallen and so they formed their own offshoots that continued the doctrines and practices originated by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

It's a little difficult to see how the FLDS are not Mormon. They believe in Joseph Smith, they Book of Mormon, and all of the teachings of the pre-1890 church. They follow the doctrines of the founding prophets of the church and refused to follow fallen leaders into apostasy after the LDS rejected polygamy. In fact, I think that they have a better doctrinal case of being the real Mormons. If they seem bizarre to the apostate, mainstream Mormon church then it is just an indication of how far the LDS church has fallen from what it was prior to its 1890 general apostasy.

What we see with the FLDS are the practical results of the "revelation" of Joseph Smith and its implementation by Brigham Young. Polygamy means that there will be a shortage of brides. The result is strong competition among the males for the most desirable girls. This drives the marriages to occur at younger and younger ages in order to lock up the marriages. The logical extreme for the group is similar to other societies where girls are married as soon as they go through puberty and reach child bearing age. Since the primary objective of marriage is children and raising up a righteous generation for God, it is not unexpected that these girls will start having children and become mothers at an early age. This is their highest calling. This is the case even in the mainstream LDS church where women are discouraged from working outside the home and are encouraged to be stay at home mothers. The main difference is that without polygamy, they don't have the same pressure to marry at very young ages.

The other implication that is not currently getting the press it deserves is the implications of polygamy for the males within the FLDS community. If each righteous male has to have 3 wives in order to be saved, then that means that 2 out of 3 males will be unwed. So what do you do? Well, you cull the herd. You need to go through a process that selects the most righteous 1/3 and you get rid of the rest. In fact the FLDS do exactly that and have cast out thousands of young boys to wander homeless. After being raised in their isolated communities with little education and a profound distrust for non-members they are cast out into a world that they are unprepared to live in. The end result is a culture that systematically produces a stream of homeless boys with severe emotional and social problems.

So, the LDS have deal with the FLDS making the new for continuing on with doctrines that the LDS itself practiced until 1890/1906. And it doesn't like it. Somehow I feel no sympathy for them and hope that many, many more articles are written showing how the two are inextricably linked by their history and doctrines.


Anonymous said...

semantics. your post seems to be about the term "mormon" . or who gets to call who what. I suppose anybody could say they where mormon and anybody could call anyone mormon. On the otherhand it is perfectly resonable to clarify that the Flds are not the same as the Lds and and calling them by the same name can lead people to think they are the same, causing confusion.

Bull said...

Well, semantics is about the meaning of words and the LDS want to redefine Mormon to include only themselves while excluding all of the other offshoots of Mormonism including the FLDS while at the same leaving the impression that FLDS doctrines and LDS have nothing to do with each other.

So, yes, it is about semantics and I'm just trying to clarify that while the LDS and FLDS are distinct and separate churches, they have much, much more in common than the LDS want you to know.

A Christian Prophet said...

The question is: what is really, really important?

I viewed the video exposing the drug-riddled Texas Foster Care system at:

I have also read over 1,000 thought-provoking comments by outraged citizens at:

It seems this is huge historically.

Marsha said...

I really appreciate your point of view. Yesterday I had a little conversation on another blog about this very thing. This person was telling me that the LDS do not teach plural marriage and never will again. She said plural marriage was for only a select few who had to meet certain requirements back in a day when there was a shortage of men and they needed to bring more children into the covenant...this was in response to my comment that LDS people hope to participate in plural marriage in the Celestial Kindgom again one day.
So I quoted Joseph Fidlding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. II, Page 166-167 where he explains:
"...the reason the Church...has never and will never relinquish the doctrine of plural marriage, is simply this: the major purpose of the Church is to help man attain the great eternal destiny suggested in that couplet---to help prepare and qualify men and women to be candidates for the Celestial Kingdom, in the road to eventual godhood and goddesshood, and plural marriage is the patriarchal order of marriage lived by God and others who reign in the Celestial Kingdom. As well might the Church relinquish its claim to the Priesthood as the doctrine of plural marriage."
I told her that if what she says is true, then according to this there are going to be a lot of Mormons who are going to be left out of the Celestial Kingdom.
Her response? She didn't respond back. Instead she eliminated the whole comment section for that post, wiping out all the comments and the option to make comments.
Perhps I hit a sore spot?

Bull said...

ACP: I'm not convinced that what they are doing with the children is in their best interest in the long term. I don't know that much about foster care, but I'm aware that it has plenty of its own problems.

Marsha: Any Mormon claiming that the church no longer teaches or believes in polygamy is grossly ignorant of their religion. The church doesn't go out of their way to emphasize it, but it is still very much a doctrine. Of course, like in most religions, most Mormons haven't read their scriptures, don't really know what their church believes, and only know whatever they happen to absorb while not napping in church which is whatever the church wants them to now.

Bull said...

Marsha, I was rereading your comment and I forgot to mention that modern historical demographic research has pretty much discredited the rationalizations given for institution of LDS polygamy. There was no shortage of men in pioneer Utah.

If you believe Joseph Smith, then the reason was because God said so.

If you don't then the most likely reason was to justify Joseph Smith's serial adultery and allow him a rationalization for fulfilling his desires. If you actually read Section 132 you quickly realize that it was all about sex. The other reasons Mormons like to give aren't even hinted at in the revelation.

Anonymous said...

Dude you’re a joke, obviously only loosely familiar with doctrine.

The central principle of our faith is that there is a living prophet (or president) of the church that can change doctrine and dictate who is and who is not a member.

Just like thorough history God knew that earthy situations would change and thus gave us prophets to clear up any Church problem in relation to current living situations. So people that cling to the teachings of older prophets are no better then the Jews and Romans that denied Christ or any of his prophets. You have obviously missed the point The President of The Church is completely in his right to stop polygamy, reject members, or anything else God tells him to do. Luckily God gave us the Holy Spirit to endorse The Presidents actions, and this “relief” that you say most members feel, is The Spirit testifying that now is not the time for polygamy.

erlybird said...

To anonymous.


The joke is religion...the biggest practical joke ever played. You don't have a leg to stand on. Bull is trying to make sense of what to do NOW. It's hard to pick up pieces and it's hard to figure out what best to do when navigating the mess that is left in the wake of stupid, stupid religious activity.

Bull said...

Anon. I'm not sure why you say I'm a joke. You merely pointed out a doctrine that I understand very well. But that wasn't really the point of my post. The church has not, to this day, ever denied that plural marriage is a true and correct principle. They've merely changed its practice in order to comply with the law. I'll grant that they have the right to claim revelation from their prophet in order to do so.

So what's your point?

erlybird said...

Bull...just thinking a bit about this on my commute this morning.

Dallin Oaks says that he now has an "eternal companion" and you say that it makes him a practicing polygamist.

I guess that is true if you want to look at it in a sort of "did Adam have a bellybutton" sort of way. We could also point out that if his "eternal companion", Kristen Meredith McMain, had been "eternally married" before then there would have a question as to whose "eternal companion" she will be. But I trust that they have that all figured out. I always thought that LDS men were allowed to be "eternally sealed" a second or third time if their spouses died but that women were not allowed to do it since they were not allowed multiple "eternal families".

But here is the thing. Dallin Oaks is walking around, all Apostle-like, delusionally thinking that he has wives waiting for him, that he will be a Patriarch in the Kingdom of Heaven. He and every other LDS leader will say that they aren't polygamists like those SICKO FLDS heretics but up there in the afterlife they will be. All LDS men think glorious it will be!!! No polygamists here though! Just us monogamously worthy LDS Priesthood holders and our loving and supportive wives!

As I have said many, many times...I don't care how PRETTY the picture one paints of the afterlife is...that doesn't make it real anymore than a wonderful daydream you pay for when buying a lottery ticket makes you a multi- millionaire. Dream all you want if it make you feel better. Dead is dead. No one is waiting. No virgins, no eternal companions, no worlds without number.

The FDLS raid, as you imply, is not about whether polygamy is right can work or whether if reflects badly on the main body of the LDS is about the ABUSE OF CHILDREN. it is about perverted old MEN using young GIRLS as playthings and disposing of young boys as competition.

Religious freedoms be damned. It's not even about that. They crossed the line and those kids will be better off anywhere else than inside that compound.