Besides the international media, many in Utah confuse FLDS with the LDS faith. A history lesson on the two church’s differences.
Throughout the FLDS compound raid saga in Texas, media outlets continue to confuse the FLDS church with the LDS Church. Both French and Mexican media outlets showed photographs of the Salt Lake City LDS Temple while reporting on the raid in Texas. This has caused the LDS Church to have a tough job of damage control in wake of such sloppy journalism. The man mainly responsible for clean up duty is Elder Quentin L. Cook, Public Relations Director for the LDS Church. Cook and his subordinates have issued several statements in the past month in attempts to clear up the confusion, and assumptions media outlets have made about the two faiths
Most recently the Wall Street Journal reported that the FLDS is merely practicing the Mormon faith how it was practiced originally, which is highly inaccurate. When the practice of polygamy began in the LDS Church it was somewhat out of necessity with an abundance of female members and a shortage of males members. Unlike the FLDS where when there is an abundance of male members they rid themselves of the disproportionate numbers, by kicking the unwanted male members out. The FLDS also performs Temple rights and ceremonies that are assumed to be sexually oriented, which the LDS Church has never done.
Cook most recently appeared in a video on the LDS Church’s website appealing to members of the media to “not to include ‘Mormon’ with the word polygamous.” newsroom.lds.org
While it may be understandable that foreign countries confuse the two churches, a recent study conducted by the department of political science at the University of Utah found that most students don’t understand the differences between the two faiths.
In another recent statement the church again made clear the distinct history the LDS church has had with polygamy, when they officially renounced the practice more than 100 years ago.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued polygamy officially in 1890. More than a century later, some news reports, especially those outside the U.S., still fail to draw clear distinctions whenever stories arise about polygamy in the Intermountain West.
In another statement Elder Russell Ballard said, ” You would think that after over 100 years, media organizations would understand the difference.”
It was nearly seventy years ago that the FLDS church was formed when secret polygamist practices caused LDS members to become excommunicated from the LDS Church. The FLDS church still incorporates Joseph Smith as the founder and first profit of their church however they don’t acknowledge LDS President Wilford Woodruff’s announcement in 1890 as Divine counsel, which put an end to the practice of polygamy, within church doctrine.
This announcement by Woodruff created an immediate backlash among many members that were within polygamist families. It wouldn’t be for another generation before LDS polygamist marriages ended completely. Many families continued secret plural marriages for years after Woodruff’s announcement.
The practice of polygamy finally ended both in public and secret when in 1904 the church issued a “Second Manifesto” which would excommunicate any member involved in a plural marriage. The elimination of polygamy from church doctrine is what paved the way for Utah’s statehood and slowly transformed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints into a main-stream American faith.
The fundamental traits of practicing LDS church members are:
- Honor for the sanctity of marriage (between a man and a woman only)
- Dedication to hard work, honesty and good business practices (There are many exceptional LDS business people)
- Maintain close-knit families, honoring family values
- Dedicated tithing practice of ten percent of annual income
- Typically conservative in political beliefs and values
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the epitome of a good LDS member. Many Mormons exemplify the true spirit of heartland Conservative American values in their moral “salt of the earth” way of living. However, routinely LDS Members are reminded by other Christians (especially Southern Baptists), how they don’t recognize them as “true Christians”.
To contrast the LDS faith with FLDS is today like comparing Canadians to French, they may have came from similar roots but today they have very few traits in common.
FLDS members also live in close-knit communities however, most would say they live cloistered extremely sheltered lives. Children are often forbidden from wondering outside of compound walls and most haven’t a clue what most American kids watch on TV, listen to or how they behave (which is the only advantage I can see.)
Many FLDS members are extremely hard working but at the same time they take great advantage of the single-mother welfare benefits by conducting their marriages as “spiritual” marriages rather than state recognized unions (which would be illegal under state laws). FLDS Polygamists often make their own clothes, grow vegetables and farm, but rarely interact with people outside of their sect.
The FLDS Church maintains the following beliefs:
- Jesus was a polygamist and had many wives
- God is a polygamist
- in order to become a God in the Celestial Kingdom (after-life) one must either have plural spiritual wives, or be a plural wife
- The Church leader is a Prophet and communes daily with God
- The world will soon end and the Prophet, Warren Jeffs, will sit at the right-hand of God with Jesus and Joseph Smith
Like nearly all mainstream Christian faiths in the United States, the LDS Church is evolving and changing with the times. While they will likely never allow women or homosexuals to hold the Priesthood, since 1978 black men have been allowed to be members of their sacred Melchizedek Priesthood. The LDS Church is now building hundreds of mini-temples in nearly 60 different countries. These Temples offer members access the Temple rights and practices that were once reserved for only a rare few on rare occasions. All church sanctioned marriages must take place in Temples. Today in Utah there is much less of a cultural barrier between Mormons and non-Mormons than there were just 30 years ago.
As more media outlets in the United States are recognizing the differences between the LDS and FLDS faiths and reporting on them accurately the reputation of the LDS Church in America continues to be bolstered rather than mocked or persecuted, as it was often in the past. The church has recently also issued a statement of gratitude to the media outlets that are getting it right.