K.C. and Michelle Woolf

Family blog

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Here's another brief explanation of the differences between the FLDS church and the LDS church, this one from Scott Gordon, president of the FAIR journal. Sadly, I fear most people and the in the world and in the media will continue to ignore the distinctions and continue to assume all Mormons are backward, inbred, wife beaters who marry multiple little girls.

(I realized after reading what I wrote above that I was implying that FLDS members are all "backward, inbred, wife beaters." I apologize for that. Since I have never in my life met someone from the FLDS church I am completely unqualified to characterize them. I'm sure much of what we hear about them is based on rumors and innuendos, just as with the LDS church. Although I don’t agree with some of their practices, I’m sure they are being represented and treated unfairly.)

------------------------------MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

The recent raids on the FLDS church in Texas once again brought the attention of the public back to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a time when things had begun to quiet down after Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race. The fact that journalists and other media figures have sometimes called the members of the FLDS church Mormon has led to confusion, and this in turn has led to many questions being asked about the differences between the LDS and FLDS churches. It is understandable why many people outside of the Church would confuse the LDS and FLDS churches. Few people pay attention to the various splinter groups of any sect or denomination. For example, do you know the differences between the various Muslim, Baptist, and Lutheran faith traditions? Probably not. Some journalists have begun to make the attempt to clarify to their readers that the LDS and FLDS churches are two different groups.

But many people still don't understand that. An example of this confusion can be seen in Jon Krakauers book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," where the author argues that the LDS church should "do something" about the polygamy problem. I'm not exactly sure what Mr. Krakauer had in mind that the LDS church should do. Frankly, I am uncomfortable with the suggestion that any church should take action against someone other than terminating his or her membership in that church. But Krakauer seems to believe that we somehow have influence over a group that is not now and never has been a part of us. I'm sure that those who have left the Church would be very uncomfortable if the press started saying the LDS church should "do something" about the ex-Mormon Foundation or the ex-Mormon Internet message boards.

So where did the FLDS church come from and just how closely connected is it to the LDS church? The FLDS claim that their line of authority starts with Wilford Woodruff, but then their leadership continues as follows:
* Lorin Wolley, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1924.
* Leslie Broadbent, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1929.
* John Barlow, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1923.
* Joseph Musser, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1929.
* Charles Zitting, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1928.
* Leroy Johnson, excommunicated from the LDS church in 1935.
* Rulon Jeffs, excommunicated from the LDS church 1941.

Warren Jeffs, son of Rulon Jeffs, was born in 1956 and has never been a member of the LDS church. Most members of the FLDS church have never been members of the LDS church but are the children or grandchildren of Latter-day Saints who were excommunicated in the 1920s and 1930s.

There are those who say that modern fundamentalists are a reflection of 19th-century Mormonism and that looking at this group is like looking into our past. I reject that claim because there are deep and significant differences between the two groups. Granted, both groups believe in the Book of Mormon and both groups either practice, or have practiced, plural marriage. I'm sure that upon investigation you can find other similarities as well. But the differences between the two groups, both past and present, are great. We do not isolate ourselves from the communities where we live. Even when geographically isolated, we have always been known for actively engaging the rest of society through missionary travels and encouraging others to visit our communities. Latter-day Saints have always eagerly sought out magazines, newspapers, and books from other parts of the country and world and have strongly encouraged our members to be well-read and acquainted with the events of the world.While keeping to our standards of modesty, we retain the dress and grooming standards of the cultures where we live.We strongly encourage education and have a long history of sending LDS men and women to the best colleges and universities in the world, both as students and as educators, and today LDS members average a higher level of education than the general population of the United States and Canada. http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s331

The FLDS practice the "Law of placing," or assignment of marriages, combined with a high level of control of the membership. This contrasts greatly with the LDS. We have no arranged marriages and the average age for LDS marriages is 23. Throughout LDS history, free agency has been a ruling principle. In 19th century LDS plural marriages women were freely allowed to marry, divorce, and leave the community. My own great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Clark Crouch, was in a plural marriage, and she divorced her husband and left the community with no ramifications. There was no danger of having her children reassigned to anyone else. It was more difficult for men to obtain a divorce, as it was believed that the men should provide economic and social support since there was no state welfare program and women had limited employment opportunities. Kathryn M. Daynes discusses the economic underpinnings of plural marriage in her book titled "More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910."Some critics try to draw parallels with the FLDS because in the 19th century some LDS women were getting married while still teenagers.While we are sometimes uncomfortable with these younger marriages, astudy comparing marriage ages shows that the Latter-day Saints were inline with the general population. Looking at 1850 census data, we findthat the national teenage marriage rate was higher than the teenagemarriage rate in Utah. And while early Mormons were criticized for thepractice of polygamy, there are no known attacks on the church basedon the ages of the girls getting married. You can read moreinformation about that here. http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s332

We had no lost boys like the FLDS church does. Young men were not cast out to create an imbalance of men and women. You can read more on that topic and more on marriage age here http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s333

Another difference with the FLDS church is their idea that more wives equals a greater chance of exaltation. While our critics like to claim we believed that, Brigham Young stated quite clearly that not everyone would, or should, practice plural marriage. Several members of church leadership--including apostles--were not polygamists. Some of Brigham's more controversial statements, when read in context, seem touse plural marriage as an example to focus on the idea of beingwilling to follow God rather than whether or not you actuallypracticed plural marriage. If plural marriage were required forheaven, why did some members of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, ourtop leadership group, not practice it?If you would like to read more about fundamentalist Mormonism, I recommend the book "Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto" by Brian C. Hales. http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s334

You can also find more information on the Internet about the FLDS church and other fundamentalist groups here, in Hales' website: http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s335

There are many differences between the LDS and FLDS churches, and except in very superficial ways, the FLDS church does not look like either the current LDS church nor the LDS church of the 19th century. The LDS church has issued a press release and video highlighting some of the differences between the LDS and FLDS faiths. You can listen to Elder Quentin L. Cook speak on the subject here http://www.fairlds.org/cgi-bin/site.pl?s336

I am both hopeful and confident that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue to become better known, better understood, and better appreciated for the dedication of its members to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

--Scott Gordon President

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