'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

August 8, 2011

Book of Mormon fundamentalists and polygamists are Mormons too

Chain The Dogma    August 8, 2011

Book of Mormon fundamentalists and polygamists are Mormons too

by Perry Bulwer

The headline for my last article on this blog was deliberately provocative, as is much of what I write here. When I wrote, "Mormon pedophile polygamist, Warren Jeffs, guilty of raping girls for God" I had in mind a recent report that a Mormon Defense League (MDL)  has been formed to monitor media reports on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Modelled after the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, the group wants

to help journalists "get it right," said Scott Gordon, FAIR’s president who will direct the new project.

If the MDL notices a misstatement or mischaracterization, the group will first contact the journalist, Gordon said. But if a pattern of misrepresentation emerges, the defense league will "go after the writer" by posting the piece or pieces on its website (mdl.org) and pointing out the errors.

The timing of this effort is likely connected to the two LDS candidates in the U.S. presidential campaign and criticisms from other Christians that they belong to a cult. The fact that fundamentalist Mormon, Warren Jeffs, has been almost continually in the news for several years now might also be connected to this, as almost all of the media reports on his child abusing cult make some connection to the mainstream church, if only to clarify the differences.

Mormons, like most believers, do not like their group referred to as a cult, whether the word is used in a theological, sociological or popular culture context. But mainstream Mormons also hate to be linked in anyway to fundamentalist groups or individuals who practice polygamy. They claim that there is no such thing as a fundamentalist Mormon, that the only true Mormons are those who subscribe to LDS dogma, which rejected polygamy long ago for political rather than religious reasons.

However, from my perspective, everyone who believes the Book of Mormon is a holy book is a Mormon. In the same way, I consider everyone who believes the New Testament is a holy book is a Christian, and everyone who believes the Koran is a holy book is a Muslim. The theological, sectarian and denominational differences within different religious traditions do not concern me. Where a distinction ought to be made, I use words such as cult, sect, and fundamentalist to differentiate between the main group and sub-groups, which is why I use Mormon fundamentalist to describe Warren Jeffs and other Book of Mormon polygamists.

I anticipate that the MDL will be targeting anyone who writes that the LDS is a cult or Mormons are not Christian, or who describes polygamists as Mormon fundamentalists.

Joanna Brooks, a Mormon writer who teaches English and comparative literature at San Diego State University, believes it will be good for the LDS Church "not to be the one to respond every time a crackpot takes a shot at the church," and she applauds the move for "an independent voice to respond to crude anti-Mormonism" in any media report.

Perhaps Brooks should apply some of her knowledge of comparative literature analysis to the Book of Mormon. If she did, and applied a little critical thinking on top of that, she might realize that it was Joseph Smith who was the crackpot. And I wonder what she means by "crude anti-Mormonism". Is there a refined form of anti-Mormonism and if so, what does that look like? I would like to give that a try. 

The MDL says that they will repost on their blog any article that misrepresents the LDS. 

1 comment:

  1. Mormon church distances itself from polygamy — again

    by Lindsay Whitehurst October 5, 2011

    Perhaps in response to the abundance of polygamy news this year, an LDS apostle addressed plural marriage during the church's General Conference this past weekend in Salt Lake City.

    M. Russell Ballard condemned the used of the term "Fundamentalist Mormon" to describe people who practice polygamy.

    From Peggy Stack's story:

    "Let me state clearly that no polygamist group, including those calling themselves Fundamentalist Mormons or other derivatives of our name," Ballard said, "have any affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

    That term is used by a wide spectrum of people who practice plural marriage, from the suburban Sister Wives to convicted polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.

    Their beliefs stem from early teachings by the Mormon church, which gave up polygamy more than 100 years ago.

    What do you think? Can the mainstream church distance itself? It seems like their tactic so far has generally been to treat the polygamy issue as radioactive and leave it as alone as possible.

    Meanwhile, pro-polygamy activists and plural families have become more public than ever, with the Dargers being the latest family to tell their story and push for acceptance. The media (should I say we?) seems to love it.

    Is the avoidance strategy working? Check out this story about a survey that found only 14 percent of people nationwide know the LDS Church no longer practices polygamy. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52568348-78/mormon-mormons-polygamy-percent.html.csp

    Now that I live here and cover this beat, it's crazy to me that so many people are still confused about it. But growing up in the Midwest, I'll admit that I didn't know much at all about the LDS Church period, including polygamy.

    The country is certainly having a Mormon moment, so to speak, with not one by two presidential candidates (Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney) being members and The Book of Mormon the hottest show on Broadway.

    And polygamy is still very much a part of that conversation.


    See Peggy Stacks article at: