The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints vs. the Polygamous FLDS Church

by Mateo Campos -

The FLDS Church has been in the news lately because of a recent raid on its polygamous compound in Eldorado, Texas. The FLDS Church is in no way affiliated with the mainstream, LDS (Mormon) Church.

For 50 years in the 19th century, mainstream Mormons practiced a form of Christian polygamy. Because of threats from the U.S. Government, God instructed the president of the Church at that time, John Taylor, to suspend the practice. A cultural change of so great a magnitude did not occur immediately. In 1904 the Church recommitted itself to discontinuing the practice of polygamy and began excommunicating members who married multiple women.

As part of this effort, the Church asked local Mormon communities to sign a pledge that they had renounced polygamy. A small community in southern Utah refused to sign the pledge. It was discovered that the community was still practicing polygamy, and so, according to Church policy, the offenders were excommunicated. Several renegade break-off groups resulted, one of which became the FLDS church. Because about 80 years have now passed since this separation, few of the current members of the FLDS Church today have ever been Mormons. Most are descendants of ex-Mormons who left the Church several generations ago.

Here are some of the key differences between the two groups:

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 13 million members worldwide. The FLDS Church has about 6,000 members scattered in only a few small communities in North America.
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ is extremely extroverted. We have 50,000 volunteer missionaries around the world. We also enjoy interacting with other religions and love and respect those of other faiths. The FLDS are extremely introverted and believe the people of the outside world are so evil that it is better to avoid them altogether.
  3. Mormons and FLDS both consider the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be scripture. Additionally, Mormons have a book of scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains revelations received by modern Mormon prophets. FLDS only believe in those modern revelations received prior to 1890, while mainstream Mormons believe that post-1890 revelations are also scripture. Many important revelations have been received since 1890, including important scriptures in which God commanded Mormons to stop practicing polygamy, in which God explained much about the afterlife that motivates Mormon temple work today, and in which God command Mormons to abandon certain racist practices we unfortunately picked up from Protestants in the 19th century. Thus, Mormons do not practice polygamy and detest racism. In contrast, FLDS do practice polygamy and do hold racist doctrines.
  4. The way FLDS currently practice polygamy differs in important ways from the way Mormons practiced polygamy in 19th-century Utah. A) Mormons always discouraged divorce, but Utah nevertheless had fairly liberal divorce laws so women could leave polygamous marriages if they so desired. B) Polygamous wives were encouraged to get a good education, and some early Mormon polygamist women became doctors and political activists. C) Polygamous marriages were not typically arranged or reassigned. Women were free to marry whoever they wished. Brigham Young stated the following in 1853: “I am free, and so are you. My advice to the sisters is, ‘Never be [married] to any man unless you wish to be.’ I say to you High Priests and Elders, ‘Never from this time ask a woman to be [married] to you, unless she wants to be; but let the widows and children alone.'” D) Brigham Young came to detest the marriage of men with very young girls. In 1857, he stated, “I shall not [marry] the people as I have done. Old Father Alread brought three young girls 12 & 13 years old. I would not [marry] them to him. They would not be equally yoked together… this is the way that devils are made.” E) Only an estimated 5%-30% of 19th-century Mormons were polygamists. The FLDS Church, on the other hand, has no liberal divorce laws, arranges and reassigns marriages, marries old men to young girls, and believes all members of the community should practice polygamy.
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been guided by 15 men (12 apostles and the 3 members of the First Presidency). This leadership by counsels prevents a single man from making drastic or extreme changes to Mormon doctrine and practices. Over the years the FLDS Church has concentrated ecclesiastical power in the hands of a single man, most recently Warren Jeffs, who has in fact changed the doctrine and practices of his church in extreme and despotic ways.
  6. Mormons believe a man named Thomas S. Monson is a modern-day prophet who guides God’s church. FLDS reject Thomas S. Monson and do not consider him to be a prophet. The last man considered a prophet by both Mormons and the FLDS lived in the late 19th century. The two churches now have completely separate with separate leadership.
  7. FLDS have a strict and distinctive dress code. Mormons are encouraged to dress modestly, but, unless serving as missionaries, have no distinctive dress code.
  8. Both Mormons and FLDS believe in sacred ordinances that take place in dedicated temples. While the FLDS have not made the details of their temple ceremonies public, evidence suggests some significant differences between Mormon and FLDS temple practices. Government agents recently discovered a bed in the FLDS temple at Eldorado that is allegedly used to consummate temple marriages. In contrast, none of the Mormon temple ordinances are sexual in nature.

Many other examples of differences exist. Hope this helps dispel any concerns you might have about your Mormon neighbors! They have nothing to do with the FLDS Church!

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