What’s in a name (part 2)

My last blog post was all about how and why there is conflict and confusion about Polygamy and Mormon’s and how so much of it is tied up in a name. I wanted to continue on with that and explain a little more about the Polygamists and names, to hopefully further clarify some of the confusion surrounding these reclusive groups of people.

To begin with let me explain that Polygamists technically can’t and shouldn’t be all lumped together. I can no more tell you what polygamists think and feel, do and believe, any more than you as say a male with brown hair can tell me what all males with brown hair think and feel. Ok maybe that’s taking it a little far but you get the point. I can tell you a few things that should be helpful though.

One final note. Lest there be confusion, as I write and try to explain the beliefs of various different groups of people and religions I am not saying that the information I am giving is either true or false. I am not saying at all what my opinion is on it. I am simply hoping to clarify about various beliefs that are out there.

First thing that it is important to understand is that many, if not all of the Mormon Polygamists ( these would be any polygamist who is living polygamy based on the early teachings of the LDS church) believe that there is one true church of Christ on the earth and that, that church is the LDS church. However, they believe that the LDS church has gone astray and given up the fullness of the gospel as restored by Joseph Smith.

The problem is that when he restored the gospel Joseph said that he was restoring Christs church and the fullness of the gospel to the earth for the last time. So since the LDS Church went astray and gave up certain principles, the Lord had to have a group of people who would keep those principles alive and on the earth in order for that prophesy to be fulfilled.

There is a prophesy common to many of the (for lack of a better word) FLDS people who says that ” One mighty and Strong” will come and set the church in order. Most believe that this person is going to be Joseph Smith returning to earth. So because, the “true church of Christ is here, there can not be another church organized. Therefore, rather than forming an official church the FLDS originally formed simply a group of people who were willing to continue to live plural marriage, (or polygamy) at the risk of being excommunicated from the  LDS church. In the beginning there was a small group who did and they got together to have “cottage meetings in each others homes. They felt that while they couldn’t form a church they could meet together as a group.

There were others who felt that they would continue to live plural marriage but didn’t feel that the thing to do was to start developing a group or leaders. They each kind of went their own way and became known as Independents. The others formed various groups and followed various leaders. Each group rather informally came to be called by the name of the leader of the group ie The Allred group, the Kingston group etc. Collectively they went by the name of fundamentalists or FLDS

With time leaders died, disputes happened and groups split. Today there are dozens of groups, each with various differing beliefs and ideas. One of the largest groups (the Jeff’s group) started getting a lot of media attention for some extra young marriages, and for some extreme behavior. the media in referring to them as FLDS pushed the other groups towards wanting to clarify the differences between them and they started to move away from that name. Now days most groups don’t want to be known as FLDS.

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.