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Are “Mormon Fundamentalists” Mormon?

Posted by nebula0 on September 5, 2008


The answer is yes, yes and yes.  Despite official disagreement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) based in Salt Lake City Utah, the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) are what they say they are: Mormons.

[Check out this letter to the media from the LDS church:  http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/media-letter]

While it is true that the majority of Mormons are members of the LDS church, this does not give the LDS church the prerogative to decide who gets to be Mormon and who is out.  The FLDS claim is that they are the ones who are truly following in the footsteps of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor and you know… it would seem they have a case for it too.  Polygamy (or plural marriage as Mormons like to call it) was a central tenant in the LDS church until the manifesto of 1890 dissolved it, on paper, and then in the early 20th C Mormons decided they really did want to do away with it in order to modernize.  It does all seem rather convenient- the US government disenfranchises all those who uphold polygamy as a doctrine, effectively disenfranchising every LDS Mormon, church property seized, leaders threatened with imprisonment, and lo and behold a revelation comes to the prophet that polygamy is over?  Bear in mind that to the leaders of the LDS church at this time the 1890 manifesto was understood to be a cover, a means of getting the US government off their backs, until a time in which they could come out of hiding again with their polygamy.  The next generation however, the generation which saw Utah become a state in 1896, forgot about that understanding and really did do away with polygamy and it was the actions of those in the first decades of the 20th C that was the direct cause of the creation of the FLDS.

All of this is to say that it is rather presumptuous of the LDS church to presume to be the sole determiners for the media who is and who is not a Mormon.  It’s gone so far as to obtain a registration of the title Mormon!  There are dozens of others groups claiming to be Mormons, and the true Mormons at that and if that fact makes the LDS church uncomfortable that is its problem.

What all this really demonstrates is the LDS church’s obsession with public image.  Instead of getting into the details of history and theology to spell out for the public exactly what the differences are about, it hires its lawyers and demands the media play the game according to the LDS church’s rules.  That is, a whitewashed history with neat categories– and don’t you dare associate Mormonism with those fundamentalists.  Perhaps this is a result of Mormonism still being, in relative terms, an immature religion, perhaps also a result of not having a paid, professional clergy who is trained to think about these matters, perhaps a result of the identity crisis Mormonism faces- but whatever it is, I hope no media kowtows to such unreasonable demands.

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10 Responses to “Are “Mormon Fundamentalists” Mormon?”

  1. Jay said

    I agree. In fact, it reminds me of non-LDS Christians that try to define Christianity and exclude groups they feel don’t measure up to their expectations of what a Christian should be. It’s just silly and sad.

  2. nebula0 said

    Jay,

    The question becomes, by what standard? The letter offers no standard except “we say so”. If Mormonism is to be excluded from Christianity, the standards should be neatly laid out and reasonable.

  3. bcnuttz said

    The usage of the word Mormon is just a nickname. We are really members of THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS (LDS)! The mainstream LDS church is in no-way affiliated with the FLDS. That is why I choose not to tell people that I am Mormon but that I’m LDS.

  4. nebula0 said

    bc,

    That’s one way to handle the diversity of groups claiming to inherit the Mormon tradition. Personally, when I was a Mormon, I actually prefered the word “Mormon” to “LDS” since the latter felt rather sterile to me, but that was largely an aesthetic choice.

    Too bad your church doesn’t feel the same way as you and just stick to picking how how the LDS are different from other Mormon traditions.

  5. ldsneighbor said

    FLDS are not “Mormon”. Even the largest LDS split-off group acknowledges that the name “Mormon” is associated with the LDS Church. FLDS should not even be called The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because it too closely co-opts the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The group currently called FLDS was formed in 1929, but didn’t start using the name FLDS until just a few years ago. The adoption of the name FLDS is akin to identity theft. Of course, they can choose whatever name they want, as long as they don’t violate the trademark rights of others in doing so.

  6. nebula0 said

    You act as if the LDS church based in SLC is THE church and everyone else is a ‘split off’. That’s not how the Community of Christ sees it. That’s not how the STrangites see it. That’s certainly not how the FLDS see it. They all see themselves as THE church and the LDS church as a split off. Hence, the FLDS have as much right to the name “Mormon” as LDS Mormons do, no matter what kind of childish legal manuevers the LDS get into.

  7. nebula0 said

    Let me put it this way… the LDS claim to exclusive use of the title Mormon would be much more impressive if it were based on solid theological and historical reasons. For instance, say I started up a church, said Joseph Smith was a liar, didn’t accept the Book of Mormon, but wanted to be called the Mormon Church. The LDS (and FLDS and former RLDS and…) would have a solid case to say my church was definitely not Mormon.

    But, that’s not what the LDS church is doing. It’s basically stomping its feet and say “no it’s not, no it’s not!” From the religious scholarly point of view, such attempts of one branch of Mormonism to co-opt the identity “Mormon” should be viewed with deep suspicion.

  8. DaveH said

    Are Protestants Catholics? What about if they just say that they are? Who would be a better judge/arbiter of who is and is not a member of a church than the church and its leaders? It is a trick to decide who gets to decide who is and isn’t Christian, or a good person/church or whatever, but it seems kinda reasonable to let a church decide who is a is not a member of its body, no?

  9. nebula0 said

    Dave,

    You’re making a categorical mistake. I never said FLDS members were LDS members. I said they were Mormons. Big difference. Mormonism is a movement that encompasses all kinds of people, from the Community of Christ and Strangites, to LDS to FLDS. Similarly, Protestants are not members of the RCC. There are fundamentalist Catholics who claim to be Catholics, and I would have to agree- they are a part of the Catholic tradition, even though not memebers of the RCC.

    See the difference?

  10. StupidPolygamy said

    Ok seriously?
    The FUNDAMENTALIST church of LDS is completely different from the church of the latter day saints. FUNDAMENTALIST mormons are different from mormons.

    polygamy anyone?

    The fundamentalists are a SECT bordering cult. Blood atonement? its something out of a scary si-fi flick.

    They’re definitely not the same

    SECT.

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