Fundamentalist Mormonism Is the Original Mormonism
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made significant news over the past several years. The “Fundamentalist” church (FLDS) emerged from the Latter-day Saint church in Salt Lake City (LDS-SLC) around 1930, mainly in protest to the abolition of the doctrine of polygamy, as originally initiated by the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith Jr., and also practiced by Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, and numerous other Mormon dignitaries.
Allegedly the FLDS church has a membership of between six and ten thousand, scattered throughout the western United States and into Canada.
This movement has been in the media spotlight over the past six years since Warren Jeffs became president. Jeffs has been convicted of accessory to rape and could spend a significant time in prison. Jeffs’s successor is William E. Jessop.
One of the modern centers of the LDSF movement (with a huge temple) is located near Eldorado, Texas. After receiving a phone call a couple of weeks ago from a sixteen-year-old girl, who alleged sexual abuse (claiming to have been married to the fortynine-year-old Jessop at the age of fifteen), state troopers stormed the compound and removed more than four hundred children. A number of girls were taken into temporary custody. More than one hundred women also left the compound voluntarily.
The Original Mormonism
It has been strange that news outlets repeatedly have stressed that this Fundamentalist LDS cult has “absolutely no connection” to the Salt Lake City church. This is entirely misleading. The Fundamentalist church has a paramount connection to the LDS-SLC church—both historically and doctrinally. Consider the following facts. (The Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants, both considered to be inspired documents by the Mormons, will henceforth be designated as BM and DC.)
The Mormon Church of Salt Lake City contends that Joseph Smith Jr., was a prophet of God and that Mormons are required to “give heed unto all his words and commands” which he gave, and claimed to have received from God (DC 21:4-5).
Two fundamental doctrines taught by Smith were “celestial marriage” (a marriage relationship alleged to continue in heaven (contra Matthew 22:29-30), and “polygamy” (a marriage involving plural wives). In a “revelation,” supposedly received by Smith from God, it is stated:
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; if ye abide not in that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory (DC 132:4; emphasis added).
Yet this is very curious since the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2:24) describes polygamy as a practice “abominable before me, saith the Lord” (BM 111; emphasis added).
Joseph Smith may have had as many as forty-eight wives (Tanner 1987, 211). Brigham Young had twenty-seven wives and fifty-seven children. (For a listing of his wives see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_young.) If Jeffs and Jessop are vile, lecherous men, what shall be said of Smith and Young, still highly revered by the LDS-SLC church?
Abolition of Polygamy
In 1890 the U. S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of “anti-polygamy” laws, and the Mormon General Conference agreed to abide by the decision, thus nullifying the “new and everlasting covenant,” which, according to their own “inspired” book, was given by God. However, the U. S. government has been ignoring these pockets of polygamy for years. We are a nation that conveniently steps around the law in far too many instances. And we are not yet to the end of that road.
The Fundamentalists, therefore, are simply saying, in essence: “We must obey God rather than men” (cf. Acts 5:29), though in their case, the principle has been egregiously perverted.
It is entirely disingenuous for the news media to distance the Fundamentalist Mormon movement from Mormonism as it originally was constituted. If the ecclesiastical powers in Salt Lake City are horrified at the degrading situation at Eldorado, Texas, let them renounce both Smith and Young, instead of continually honoring them. In the meantime, let it be known that Fundamentalist Mormonism is the real Mormonism!
- Tanner, Jerald and Sandra. 1987. Mormonism – Shadow or Reality? Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Lighthouse Ministry.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.