Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mormon Fundamentalism vs. The Mainstream LDS Church

Mormon Fundamentalism VS. The LDS Church

There seems to be a lot of interest lately on the subject of Mormon fundamentalism, particularly the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) so I will speak on the subject. There are many people that see reports on t.v. about polygamist groups and associate these groups with the LDS church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Part of the reason for the confusion is over the use of the word "Mormon" when describing these groups.


LDS Church-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I use the term "LDS Church" in reference to the mainstream church that most people refer as the "Mormon church".

Mormon-This term is usually used to describe a member of the LDS Church. However, it can also accurately be used to describe followers of other groups, which I will explain. To clarify in this case, I will use the term "mainstream Mormon" to refer to members of the LDS church.

Mormon fundamentalist-Someone that believes that the original teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are eternal and everlasting and the doctrines and practices can not ever change. The main points of these doctrines usually include the earthly practice of plural marriage (polygamy) and the law of consecration, along with other doctrines such as the Adam-God doctrine among many others.

FLDS-Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a Mormon Fundamentalist church that is not affiliated with the LDS church.

First, I would like to address the confusion that is out there. Many people still to this day think that Mormon Fundamentalists are somehow affiliated or associated with mainstream Mormons. This is simply not the case. Mormon Fundamentalists are groups that have splintered or broken off of the LDS church, many of them decades ago principally over the doctrine of polygamy.


The LDS church does not currently practice polygamy. The LDS church abandoned the practice of polygamy gradually from 1890 to the early 1900's. The LDS church excommunicates any member that practices polygamy.

There exists a lot of confusion regarding mainstream Mormons and Mormon fundamentalists. Mormon fundamentalist groups like the FLDS that practice polygamy have nothing to do with the LDS church. The source of this confusion could be the commonality of the word "Mormon" used to describe both groups. When people hear these terms, they assume that they are connected with the LDS church, since most people know the LDS church as the "Mormon church", which is a misnomer.

Frankly, I understand and can empathize with the frustration of the LDS church in trying to distinguish themselves from Mormon fundamentalists. The LDS church has even attempted to go as far as saying that they don't even exist.

Gordon B. Hinckley has said "There is no such thing as a 'Mormon fundamentalist.' It is a contradiction to use the two words together".

Are Mormon Fundamentalists "Mormon"?

This completely depends on your definition of the word "Mormon". Usually, the word "Mormon" is in reference to a member of the LDS Church. In this definition, Mormon fundamentalists are not "Mormon" in the sense that they are not members of the LDS church. However, in a broader sense of the word, a "Mormon" can correctly be applied to anyone that adheres to the teachings of Mormonism, as established by Joseph Smith, and considers themselves to be a Mormon. This was always my understanding of the term "Mormon" as defined by an encyclopedia I read in my youth.

Are Mormons Christian?

Many members and leaders of the LDS church have been trying to assert to mainstream Christianity that they are in fact Christians. Even though the views differ from traditional Christianity, the LDS church and its members make this assertion.

When Salt Lake hosted the winter Olympics, the leadership of the church expressed the importance of its insistence of being regarded a Christian church and attempted to try to distance itself from the use of the term "Mormon Church.

"the church's hierarchy recently advised the media that the term Mormon Church is no longer acceptable. Henceforth, officials declared, short references to the church should read: "The Church of Jesus Christ." In this way the church hopes to emphasize what Mormons share with historic Christianity, not what makes them different."

From Jeff Lindsey's blog(member of the LDS church): "I definitely consider myself a Christian, meaning that I look to Christ as my Savior and Redeemer, and that I seek to follow Him. You may disagree with other doctrines, but please don't assume this means that I am not Christian. However, I realize that some of our doctrines, as painted by opponents of the Church, sound odd, especially our ideas about the relationship between man and God. But our doctrines are rooted in scripture and are those of the earliest Christians - really."

Here is the ultimate irony. Here, you have a member of the LDS church defending the position that Mormons are Christians, yet most of mainstream Christianity that I have spoken with do not recognize Mormons as Christians. The irony is when the tables are turned, the mainstream LDS church gives Mormon fundamentalists the exact same treatment by asserting that Mormon Fundamentalists are not "Mormon".

Use the Same Argument For Mormon Fundamentalists

The same argument from Jeff Lindsey's defense for being Christian can be made to defend Mormon fundamentalists as being Mormon with a slight tweak. Imagine if a Mormon fundamentalist made this statement to the LDS church:

"I definitely consider myself a Mormon, meaning that I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that I seek to follow his teachings. You may disagree with other doctrines, but please don't assume this means that I am not Mormon. However, I realize that some of our doctrines, as painted by opponents of the FLDS Church, sound odd, especially our ideas about the relationship between Adam and God, or polygamy. But our doctrines are rooted in scripture, and are those of the earliest Mormons - really."

Who or What is Mormon?- It is all About Semantics

I believe that there should be a correction of the use of the term "Mormon" to the more broad sense of the word, as any group that follows the teachings of Mormonism and considers themselves to be Mormon. I understand the concern of the LDS church in trying to distinguish themselves with other smaller followers of Mormonism. There is even a distinction within Mormon fundamentalists that try to dis-associate themselves with the FLDS church and consider Warren Jeffs a false prophet.

"Polygamist Sects?"

The LDS church has suggested that the correct term to use to describe Mormon fundamentalists is "polygamist sects" in place of "Mormon sects" or even Mormon fundamentalists. They are trying to get people to not incorporate the word "Mormon" when describing other groups. However, the term "polygamist sect" is very problematic. Not all Mormon Fundamentalists practice polygamy. Most believe in the principal, but are not currently practicing it. Some could be widows, some could be children too young to be married, many live a monogamous lifestyle, but generally still believe in the principal. What are we to call these individuals, Polygamists?

The LDS church fits into the criteria for the term "polygamist sect", as the principal of polygamy is still very much a part of the doctrine of the church as it is expected to be practiced in heaven as I have talked about in a previous post. So the LDS church fits under the definition of a "polygamist sect" if they can be called polygamists just for believing in the principal, but not actually practice it.

The other problem is not all splinter groups of Mormonism practice or believe in the doctrine of polygamy. The Community of Christ is the largest group that broke off of the LDS church and it does not teach the doctrine of polygamy nor does it recognize Brigham Young as a prophet. They deny or downplay Joseph Smith's practices and teachings of polygamy. The Community of Christ is not considered part of Mormon fundamentalism.

Different Groups Within Mormonism

There are different flavors of Christianity and Mormonism is no different. The most well known is the LDS church, however, there are many other churches that all proclaim to be the true Mormons:

Apostolic United Brethren
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days
Community of Christ (originally the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Latter-day Church of Christ
Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
United Latter-day Church of Jesus Christ

All of these and countless other smaller groups consider themselves the true "Mormons" as in the real followers of the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith. I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on the word "Mormon", even if they are the largest organization. I believe that the word "Mormon" should begin to be viewed in a general term like "Christian", not a specific term like "Catholic". I think a member of the LDS church can still call themselves "Mormon" for short, but so should members of other churches that teach the principals of Mormonism.

Disillusioned Mormon


Anonymous said...

The one constant with the LDS church is it will "define itself" as whatever suits their purpose....i.e. Blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, and being Christian. Take a peek at the history of church leaders and their comments....

Eric said...

The Lord explains in the scriptures why a people are cut due to apostasy: D&C 1:14-15 "14And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;"

The LDS have changed the temple ordinances, as well as the temple garments and have rejected the everlasting covenant of celestial plural marriage.

Eric said...

LDS also don't give heed to the words of the prophets either. They don't consider the journal of discourses as doctrine and ignore the teachings of the early prophets and apostles.

Joe said...

Saying there are no "Mormon Fundamentalists" is also problematic in that I've known several members of the LDS church who are very much "Mormon Fundamentalists".

Borrowing from Wikipedia: "Religious fundamentalism refers a deep and totalistic commitment to a belief in the infallibility of a holy book, absolute religious authority, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (fundamentals)"

Joe said...

I should add that I think Fundamentalism within the Mainstream LDS Church is on the rise. BYU has certain become more fundamentalist by the above definition since I attended in the [relatively carefree] early 1980s.

Zelph said...


I actually acknowledge your point and in a way agree with you. If it is your belief that the principals and doctrines that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught are eternal and can never change, if that was the case, it would appear that the LDS church would be in apostasy. However, I do not hold this view, as I don't even believe that the BoM is an ancient record. Although, most LDS members I have spoken with have not completely rejected the doctrine of polygamy as most are aware that it is expected to be practiced in the celestial kingdom. On the other hand, I believe that the earthly practice is over. Polygamy is illegal in the United States, but is not illegal everywhere in the world. Hinckley said the following in the same interview as referenced in the post:"God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage."

Even if polygamy became legalized, I believe that the LDS church would continue to excommunicate members that engaged in it. As far as I am concerned, polygamy as an earthly practice is over for the LDS church. However, most I have spoken with have not completely rejected the doctrine fully.


Thank you for your comments. That is another good point. You said:

"Saying there are no "Mormon Fundamentalists" is also problematic in that I've known several members of the LDS church who are very much "Mormon Fundamentalists"

I am glad you brought this up because I agree with you. Once again, I believe that people have the right to call themselves "Mormon Fundamentalist" if they want. I wonder if members of the FLDS or AUB would say that an LDS can't be a Mormon Fundamentalist.

That is an interesting observation about fundamentalism on the rise within the LDS church. My observation has been that the church leadership has been trying to become more mainstream and fit in with the rest of Christianity. I have also observed people online generally become a little more liberal minded as they learn about some of the criticisms of the church. So, I believe that eventually all this will lead to spiritual tugs of war, which in my opinion will lead to even more splinter groups, perhaps large groups.

Vor said...

"Mormon" is simply a nickname for members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". Some persons frown on using that nickname, while others merely shrug it off. "LDS" is another common abbreviated form used to refer to that church and/or its members.

Mormon was a prophet who lived in what is now known as North America. It is from his name that the Book of Mormon acquired its name, derived from the plates upon which he inscribed a history of his people.

The only true "Mormon" church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. All others are splinter groups (apostates) who have allowed their personal differences with LDS Church leaders or interpretation of LDS doctrine to lead them in a different direction. They do not follow "Mormonism" any more than Protestants follow Catholicism.

The Prophet has asked the members to refrain fro from using the term Mormon. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Since that is a mouth full, many are willing to falter and use the term Mormon.

Your definition is wrong. We do not practice Mormonism and the FDLS church does not follow the teachings of Christ as out-lined in the Book of Mormon or the Bible.

So, if in your opinion you say that the color red is actually green, you would be correct and everyone else wrong?

Opinions are not fact and yours is not even close

Anonymous said...

"Hinckley said the following in the same interview as referenced in the post:"God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God."

About three years before the Manifesto, Woodruff said he received a revelation which upheld polygamy.

I think the revelation Hinkley was referring to was more about the consequences of violating federal law than divine revelation.

Joe said...

Hinckley didn't know his church history since church recognized plural marriages that were performed after Willford Woodruff's 1890 manifesto. It was Joseph F. Smith's 1904 manifesto that truly ended the practice.

Joe said...

My observation has been that the church leadership has been trying to become more mainstream and fit in with the rest of Christianity.

True, but the bulk of public Christianity in the US is evangelical/fundamentalist or at least adopts that posture. (In other words, the LDS church is not trying to fit in with/compete with Lutherans, but Baptists and evangelical Methodists, amongst others.)

Anonymous said...

I went to a few Mormon services with a neighbor of mine when I was a teenager and went to a Mormon funeral about 4 years ago. They are nice people, but why are they all white? Are there any blacks in Utah?

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph, I basically agree with your definition of mormons and christians. It seems that Christians want to define Mormons, and Mormons want to define Fundamentalist mormons. This is a problem. I think that a mormon should be anyone who believes in the Book of Mormon, regardless of their specific beliefs about polygamy. If the church in Salt Lake wants to distinguish itself, then it should just be called "LDS" as it seems that is the least confusing title.

Interestingly, in an interview with John Hamer, a member of CoC, he said that while the CoC was originally opposed to polygamy, they have allowed some polygamous members in places like India where polygamy is legal. So it seems that the LDS and CoC have switched polygamy roles somewhat. (CoC doesn't really recruit polygamous members, but has allowed them to join in the past.)

Vor, this blog is about opinions, so don't get too excited about people expressing opinions.

We have too many "Anonymous" posters. Can you pick a handle so I can address you properly?

Anonymous #2--not many people know about the 2nd Manifesto since it is not in the D&C. Don't get too excited about Hinckley using that reference.

Anonymous #3--Thurl Bailey, former member of the Utah Jazz is the most prominent black LDS member in Utah. Of course, Gladys Knight is also a member, but I'm not sure where she lives. She has a show in Las Vegas, so I'm sure she's there quite a bit. I don't know if you've heard of Alex Boyer, but he is a semi-famous black member. Frankly, hispanics greatly outnumber blacks in Utah, so you'll see many more hispanics and Native Americans than blacks in Utah.

But I did go on a mission to Georgia, and we had a black bishop. I also note that a black mission president was called in the Ivory Coast (details in this week's Church News.) Also, there was a member of the Quorum of 70 named Helvicio Martens who served in the 1990's. (He hails from Brazil.) So, while I acknowledge that the LDS church is quite white, there are some black members who hold some prominence. (Incidentally, the Quorum of 70 is somewhat analogous to a Cardinal in the Catholic Church.)

In other parts of the world, such as England, Africa, and even the deep South, you will find more black members of the LDS church.

Zelph said...


Thank you for your comments. As I have said, I understand your concern, but try to see things from other people's perspectives. It is not about trying to group Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists together, it is about re-defining what the term "Mormon" means. Although I think that most people will continue to refer to the LDS church as "the Mormon church". People will also continue to use the terms "Mormon polygamists" and "Mormon Fundamentalists".

MH-Thank you for the info on the CoC. Yes, it seems that the tables have turned a bit. I knew a member of the CoC when it was known as the RLDS and that was one of their points to argue that the Brighamites were the apostates because he invented polygamy. This was about 15 years ago.

One thing that I read was that the term "Mormon Fundamentalist" was coined by an LDS apostle in the 1940's. If true, that would be quite ironic.

Cr@ig said...


I would like to ask you a question in a more private setting. Would you be so kind as to give me an e-mail I could reach you at. I would give you mine but want to make sure I'm communicating with you.

Cr@ig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cr@ig said...

BTW Here's mine...

Zelph said...

Email is sent

Lilith said...

Vor: Your definition is wrong. We do not practice Mormonism and the FDLS church does not follow the teachings of Christ as out-lined in the Book of Mormon or the Bible.

Not even Mormons follow the teachings of Christ as outlined in the Book of Mormon.

Alma 11:28-29 Now Zeezrom said: "Is there more than one God?" And he answered, "No."

Zelph said...

Lilith, thank you for your comment, you draw an excellent point and I will expand on it in a future post.

aricat said...

I have no problem with the term Mormon Fundamentalism. If people want to call themselves Fundamentalists, that is fine with me. Leave the term Mormon to us LDS and the term Mormon Fundamentalist to the Fundamentalists. I think that would help solve confusion.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what's with the bicycles?

Bishop Rick said...


The LDS church should be known as a pioneer of green proselyting. They were green before being green was cool.

Joshua said...

Mormons aren't Christians because their tainted views of Jesus are not bible based. They believe that we are saved by our works. They believe that Jesus became God through his own good works. Mormons are nice people, but unfortunately, they are marching themselves right down to hell. If you saw someone running right into the pathway of a freight train, you would do all you can to warn them. If they say that it is o.k. because they don't believe in freight trains, that wouldn't prevent the freight train from coming.

Come to the biblical Jesus

Lilith said...

Bishop Rick: The LDS church should be known as a pioneer of green proselyting. They were green before being green was cool.

Yeah, they even found a lush green river valley that continually emptied into the Red Sea, but dang if we can find it now, or even it's dry bed.

1 Nephi

2:8 And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.

2:9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!

Mormon Heretic said...


Please refrain from threadjacking. If you have something to say about Fundamentalism, please do. Otherwise, quit trying to force your tired arguments on the rest of us. Stick to the topic at hand. Your constant changing the subject, and trying to create animosity is not Christlike, nor is it intelligent.

Lilith, you may be interested in a website that seems to have found the River Laman in Saudi Arabia, thinks that Nephi left the old world from Kor Rhori, Yemen, and a few other places Nephi mentions (such as the land Bountiful that you mention in your verses.) The website is

While I acknowledge that the new world geography is hard to locate with any specificity, there does seem to be some more convincing evidence of old world sites.

Bishop Rick said...

I have to admit that the Saudi site mentioned in the Nephi project fits the description found in the BoM quite nicely. Too bad that is but 1 in 100 other sites mentioned. Still 99% lacking. 1% is not enough to get my attention.

Mormon Heretic said...

Bishop Rick, I'm glad to be able to facilitate a 1% change in your opinion. Thanks for the compliment! :)


Brother Zelph said...

Joshua, I appreciate all perspectives, but please try to stay as close to the topic as possible. It is difficult to take you seriously when you revert to scare tactics like telling people they are going to hell if they don't share the same views that you do.

So I am just trying to help you if you want to be taken seriously.

MH- interesting link. I think I have seen portions of some of the videos on youtube.

Bishop Rick said...

MH, 1% is progress.

Jeremy said...

Not to hijack the post or anything but since the topic has sort of died off.... I just rented the first season of Big Love today.

Bishop Rick said...


That's actually on topic.
Love Big Love.

Brother Zelph said...

I think at this point, the tangent police have given up.

I have seen both seasons and think that it is a fantastic series, although the first season was better than the second IMO.

When I first started watching the episodes, my TBM wife didn't want anything to do with it, but she was curious enough that I caught her watching as she was doing the dishes. By the end of the first season, we were watching it together and I fast forwarded it past the sex scenes for her and she loved it and thought it was a well written show.

I personally think that they have done an excellent job researching Utah culture and it does a good job of distinguishing between the LDS church and Mormon fundamentalists, so I guess this is somewhat on topic with the OP.

Jeremy said...

HA HA, well I'm glad I could contribute to this topic.

Do you think the 3 Nephites...... well never mind :D

Elder Joseph said...


What does one expect when Gods 'Special Witnesses' prefer to keep quiet and away from the controversy they are responsible for creating with their bogus claims and instead prefer to rehearse crying in front of a mirror.

Its simply ridiculous.

Elder Joseph said...

BR wrong thread....... lol

Clifford said...

Very interesting discussion ...

The history of religion is ever of someone attempting to create or restore the "original" faith, only to see their efforts splinter.

When I first heard of Islam, I had no idea that it included both Sunni and Shiite, and that they hated each other. And what about the Sufis? And the Sikhs? And the Bahai?

There must be ten thousand different Christian sects. And we would be wrong to blame all that on Martin Luther. Long before his time, the Coptic Christian Church, the Armenian Church and of course the Orthodox Church, were already separate from the Roman Catholics.

Finally, there must be at least a hundred different sects tracing their roots to the Church that the Prophet Joseph Smith restored.

Only the Jews seem to have figured out how to solve this puzzle, within their ranks at least, without the rancor and sheep-stealing accusations that bedevil other faiths.

Mormon Lite said...

Clifford- Very interesting observation. Islam, Christianity (including Mormonism) and Judaism all believe that they are the only true followers of Abraham. Allah is the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

I see religions just like I see nature, always evolving and share a common ancestor.

In essence, Muslims are cousins to Christians and Jews.

I see religions as constantly evolving and I believe this evolution is simply a product of the higher enlightenment of society.

Christianity evolved from Judaism and Mormonism evolved from Christianity. Perhaps one day a completely different religion will evolve from Mormonism.

Anonymous said...

The FLDS follows THEIR OWN interpretation of what they BELIEVE Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught. That is why we have a prophet Thomas S. Monson and 12 apostles to help clarify doctrines.

Bishop Rick said...


Why are there only 12 apostles?

Jeremy said...

Well since the 12 were mentioned I want to ask in general this question.

If the modern church was formed after the original church setup during Christ's time on the earth why do we have a total of 15 apostles, the first presidency (3 apostles) and the quorum of the 12? And we call all 15 men Prophets, Seers and Revelators.

mormon heretic said...


The jews do have different sects too. There is Reform, Orthodox and one other that escapes me at the moment...

Bishop Rick said...

I think the other Jewish sect would be Christian.

Brother Zelph said...

LOL BR I think you are correct. It is my opinion that Christianity started out as a (probably heretical) Jewish sect.

Bishop Rick said...

BZ, there is ample evidence to support that premise.

MH said...

Bishop Rick,

Good one! :)

The other jewish sect that I was thinking of was Conservative.

Wikipedia also lists these as Jewish denominations:

Orthodox · (Haredi · Hasidic · Modern Orthodox) · Conservative · Reform · Reconstructionist · Jewish Renewal · Rabbinic · Karaite · Samaritan · Humanistic

Yes, there is a small group of Samaritans (remember the Good Samaritan?) that live in Israel and still practice Old Testament Judiasm, killing goats, sheep at Passover, etc. They are politically neutral, supporting neither the Jews or the Palestinians.

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