Subject: Precisely, what is a Mormon fundamentalist?
Date: Mar 18 13:31 2004
Author: Troy

There are 30,000 to 50,000 individuals living in western North America who call themselves Mormon fundamentalists. These Mormon fundamentalists are scattered from Canada to Mexico, but are most concentrated in Utah and Arizona. They are a fragmented culture, with many opposing claims as to which leader is the "true prophet". They have separated themselves from the larger body of Mormonism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the LDS Church), over various doctrinal issues. The most prominent issue separating the LDS Church from Mormon fundamentalism is the doctrine of plural marriage. A less prominent, but equally divisive doctrinal dispute between the two sides is the issue of allowing men of African descent (black men) to hold positions within the Mormon Priesthood. The Mormon Priesthood is the authority structure in the LDS Church, as well as within the various factions of Mormon fundamentalism. These two issues will be explained briefly.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints constitutes the largest group of individuals who apply the term "Mormon" to themselves. But even this usage is not entirely free from internal controversy. The official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the term "Mormons" is as follows:

Unofficial term for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; members prefer to be referred to as Latter-day Saints.[1]

LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley also seems to disapprove of the term "Mormon fundamentalist". In an interview on Larry King Live that aired September 8, 1998, Hinckley denied the existence of Mormon fundamentalists:

KING: But when the word [polygamy] is mentioned, when you hear the word, you think Mormon, right?

HINCKLEY: You do it mistakenly. They have no connection to us whatsoever. They don't belong to the church. There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists.[2] (my emphasis)

Clearly, the dispute is a matter of definition. But the controversy is hard to ignore, and Hinckley's words exemplify the policy of the LDS Church to dissociate itself with those who call themselves Mormon fundamentalists. In the LDS Church, individuals who express interest in the doctrines of Mormon fundamentalism are regarded with suspicion, and are usually excommunicated. The practice of polygamy began early in the history of Mormonism. The founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, had numerous wives, although this is hotly disputed. But even today's LDS leaders don't deny this historical fact, as can be seen on this official LDS website that lists many of Smith's polygamous wives: [3]

Regarding the practice of polygamy, the division between the LDS Church and Mormon fundamentalism began in 1890, with the issuance of a document commonly referred to as the Manifesto. Presented by LDS President Wilford Woodruff, the Manifesto declares that plural marriage is no longer a doctrine of the LDS Church. This document began the division that would take several decades to complete. Eventually polygamy was virtually eliminated within the LDS Church. However, it is the goal of Mormon fundamentalism to ensure that polygamy is never completely eliminated.

In the late 1920's, Mormon fundamentalists began to organize themselves. Today there are dozens of splinter groups within Mormon fundamentalism, the largest of which occupies the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. This particular faction has over ten thousand members.

The second prominent issue that separates Mormon fundamentalism from the LDS Church is the policy toward black people. In Mormonism, as has been mentioned, the authority structure exists within a framework called the Priesthood. This priesthood is further divided into a junior group, the Aaronic Priesthood, and the senior group, the Melchizedek Priesthood. This authority is only bestowed upon males, beginning at age 12 with their induction into the Aaronic Priesthood. According to traditional Mormon doctrine, men descended from Ham, son of the biblical Noah, are not eligible to hold this priesthood. Black people, from African descent, are considered to be the descendants of Ham. This policy brought the LDS Church under severe criticism during the civil rights movement. In 1978, amid tremendous public pressure, the LDS Church rescinded the policy and began accepting members of all cultures into their priesthood. Having grown up in a Mormon fundamentalist family, I vividly remember the outrage that was expressed by the polygamous cousins of the LDS members. This event marked another profound division between the LDS Church and Mormon fundamentalism. I witnessed an insurgence of new Mormon fundamentalists who had left the LDS Church over this decision. Now, 26 years later, the issue is largely forgotten, but the Mormon fundamentalists have not changed their policy. There is no real demand upon Mormon fundamentalists to confer their priesthood upon worthy black males, but the white supremacist ideology is still there. One might ask now what is the difference between this doctrine and any other doctrine that promotes racism on religious grounds.

In conclusion, it is helpful when analyzing the problems associated with Mormon fundamentalism to be able to identify precisely what is the essence of Mormon fundamentalism. These two issues constitute a considerable portion of that essence. While the term "Mormon" can be used to describe anyone who lives under the religious system founded by Joseph Smith, whatever faction of Mormonism that individual practices under. The term "Mormon fundamentalist" describes individuals who still promote the practice of Mormon-based polygamy, along with the doctrine that blacks are not eligible to hold the Mormon Priesthood. There are many other minor differences between these two systems, but these two issues are among the most prominent in the minds of those involved.


Subject: Very interesting and well written, Troy.
Date: Mar 27 21:39
Author: another exmo

I note that has written a disclaimer against the use of the term "Mormon fundamentalist" on its "Mistakes in the News" page:

Recent news reports regarding various issues related to the practice of polygamy have used terms such as "fundamentalist Mormons," "Mormon sect" and "polygamous Mormons" to refer those who practice polygamy.

When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, terms such as those listed above are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: "The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death."
(emphasis mine),15331,3885-1,00.html

They seem to want to control how the term "Mormon" is used, but don't even want it used to apply to them, unless they use it themselves (as I also note they are doing in current television advertising).

Subject: FLDS is really LDS, inc.'s crazy old aunt locked in the attic who refuses to die.
Date: Mar 28 03:58
Author: Shummy

Any outsider of average intelligence is bound to understand that if those who proclaim the bible are known as bible-thumpers, then any who proclaim the book of mormon should be known as....mormons.

Thanks for another fantastic post, Troy.

Subject: Mormon fundamentalists are Joseph Smith and his original touring band, "The Righteous Polygamy Brothers."
Date: Mar 28 04:56
Author: steve benson

The present Mormon church regularly throws "oldies but goodies" concerts, claiming to have preserved the original sound and style of the band, but ends up constantly changing the tunes and the players when people start booing and demanding their money back.

Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church   

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