What’s in a name?


I’ve been reading a number of column’s, articles, and blogs lately that have to do with Polygamy. Since Mitt Romney is running for president there seem to be a lot of people interested in his religion and what exactly it is that he believes, and rightly so. It’s brought to mind for me several things that are rather a pet peeve of mine so I figured, what better place than here to put in my two cents worth and see if I can help clarify some really common misunderstandings that people seem to have about Mormons and Polygamists.

Probably the most common theme that I seem to see is people trying to figure out where the Mormon church ends and polygamy begins and just how they all fit together. It’s really common to read an article such as this one written by a non-mormon writer, who actually is pretty accurate in a lot of what he has to say. http://www.delsjourney.com/close-ups/us/travels_sw/mormons_and_polygamy.htm

He say’s this however

“There are several ultra-orthodox offshoots of the Mormon Church though, especially in rural parts of Utah, which quietly practice polygamy today basically under a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.”

Which ia misleading because the literal definition of offshoot is

a branch or lateral shootfrom a main stem, as of a plant.

and if you look up branch it will say
“a division or subdivision of the stem or axis of a tree, shrub, or other plant.”
so when someone refers to polygamists as an “offshoot” or as I have seen in some cases, a “subgroup” it is easy to assume that the Mormon church consists of “Main stream” Mormons and then several “offshoots or branches who practice polygamy.”
Lets look at it this way.
In the 16th century Martin Luther led a reform group within the Roman Catholic church. Those who followed him were referred to as Lutherans. Today if you were to suggest that Lutherans were Catholic both parties would protest that, that is not the case. They are two separate and distinct religions. And yet the Lutheran church could be considered an “offshoot, a branch, or a sub group” of the Catholic church. So it is with the Mormon’s and the polygamists.
In the early days of the Mormon church, its leaders taught and encouraged the practice of polygamy. Later for various reasons (which could be an entire post of by itself) the church changed its position on polygamy and outlawed its practice, excommunicating any members who continued its practice.
So why, you ask, is there so much confusion in the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints and the polygamists? I’ll tell you why. It all has to do with the name.
You see the Lutherans and others like them were happy to separate from the catholic church and be called by a new name. The polygamists arent.
In the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants which both the Polygamists and the Mormons view as scripture, Christ tells the only name that his church will be known by; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since both groups believe in those books and both groups claim to have the truth they both want access to that name.
The nickname that the LDS church has been given; “the Mormon’s” further adds to the confusion as since it is just a nickname it is easier for both groups to claim, especially since they both believe in the Book of Mormon the nick name in all fairness applies. This is why the leaders of the LDS church encourage that their members use the given name.
In fact recently one of the 12 apostles of the LDS church said the following,

“Our members have been called Mormons because we believe in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Others may try to use the word Mormon more broadly to include and refer to those who have left the Church and formed various splinter groups. Such use only leads to confusion. We are grateful for the efforts of the media to refrain from using the word Mormon in a way that may cause the public to confuse the Church with polygamists or other fundamentalist groups. Let me state clearly that no polygamist group, including those calling themselves fundamentalist Mormons or other derivatives of our name, has any affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-importance-of-a-name?lang=eng

Having come from one church and converted to the other, I feel that I have an understanding of this issue more than most. I have personally heard polygamists claim that they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. I have heard them insist that they are Mormons. I have heard them claim that the differences are cultural. The truth is…and even they would agree with me on this;
1.) They believe that the official leaders of the LDS church do not have authority from God, are not inspired and directed by him and they don’t listen to or respect their teachings.
2.) They believe that the LDS church has given up the fullness of the gospel and their beliefs about several of their teachings (more than just polygamy) are quite different.
3.) They attend totally different church meetings.
4.) Neither organization would accept the baptism of the other and both would require a denial of former beliefs in the case of conversion.
I don’t know about you but to me this sounds like more than cultural differences, more than a “branch or offshoot”. It sounds to me like a different religion.

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5 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Montana says:

    This has been going on too long, it’s a good start but our law enforcement has a long way to go.

    When someone hides behind religion to do or say something that is wrong we should stand up and point it out (right the wrong).

    When I was a kid I lived in Utah, and the Boy Scouts was taken over by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). This, so called religion, practices underage polygamy, they send the boy s off on missions to divide the underage sisters among the dirty old men of the clan. Now when these underage girls get pregnant, these same dirty old men, send them to the state to get their welfare checks. You should see some of the palace homes that are paid with welfare checks. By the way this is the newest religion that was created right here in United States of America.

  2. Lyric says:

    Name confusion is a common problem across faith groups. For example, try answering “What is a Christian?” Anyone can call himself a Christian, and there’s no law against it. Multiple groups claim a Christian heritage, or claim the Bible as their holy book, or claim to be followers of Christ. “Christian Science” has nothing to do with historic Christianity at all! Similarly, the “Nation of Islam” is only very tangentially related to the Shiite and Sunni sects of traditional Islam.

    Then there is the Catholic/Protestant split. Catholics claim to be the older church. The church was first and foremost Catholic. But was it? Before the Protestant split, there was simply the western church and the eastern church (ignoring some very minor splinter groups). Before the western and eastern, there was simply the Church, which was a brotherhood of multiple Christian communities united under Christian bishops, ultimately going back to the Apostles, which included Peter. Catholics call Peter the first Catholic Pope. Peter never used such terminology, and as far as is known never claimed authority over the other bishops. On the other hand, all Christian groups claim catholicity (universality) and also orthodoxy (right doctrine). So then, which group is truly the splinter and which the original? True, the Roman Catholics can claim lines of succession going all the way back to the Apostles, but not every bishop in the line of succession remained on the side of the Pope.

    And what is a Protestant? Catholics often criticize Protestants by comparing Rome’s unity with the factionalism of Protestants who continuously splinter into more and more groups. But properly speaking, “Protestant” refers to the Protestant Reformation and the groups involved in that (primarily Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian), and then secondarily perhaps any splinter groups from those churches. However, not all “Protestant” churches have an obvious connection with that history, or even consider themselves as such. Furthermore, it seems disingenuous that whenever a person leaves Catholicism and forms his own group, that action automatically makes him a “Protestant” rather than a Catholic splinter group. By default, if you form a new Christian church, you are labeled Protestant. If you serve the Pope, you are labeled Catholic. Obviously, then, the Catholic family tree does not grow.

    To make matters even more complex, while Judaism and Christianity are considered separate religions, Christians believe themselves to be the true inheritors of the original Jewish faith. Thus, while the Jews trace Judaism back to Abraham, Christians trace Judaism back to the Jewish reaction against Christians, and trace their own faith back to Abraham and then of course ultimately to Adam, the first man.

  3. diddadowrite says:

    Thank you for that! I love having a better understanding of these things. It helps things make sense.

  4. Kat says:

    I originally thought that you were from Centennial Park, but due to the Bluffdale location I presume that your family is AUB. Either way: Why do you chose not to identify the specific polygamist sect that your family comes from?

  5. diddadowrite says:

    Kat,
    Thanks for visiting my blog. You seem fairly knowledgeable about the different groups in the area. My family is not part of AUB. I chose to not disclose it for three reasons. First is that it never seemed relevant. I never felt like it was an important detail in any of the blog posts that I have made. Second is that my family are pretty private people and I see no reason to write more about them than what suites my purposes, and the last reason is that while others refer to our group using various names, They are not names that people in our group would use themselves. To us we were always just “the group” and while there is an official name for it, it is not something that anyone outside of our group would recognize.
    I’m curious what made you think Centennial?
    Also, just so you know, even though the AUB church building is located in the Bluffdale area, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there are far more polygamists who do not belong to that group living in Bluffdale than those who are. There are quite a few independents, as well as quite a few from other groups as well.

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