Polygamy in Utah – Warren Jeffs – What is a Mormon..etc

A good friend of mine has blogged about Warren Jeffs, a polygamist in Utah.  In mentioning the plight of this man, the term "Mormon" came up.  Being Mormon, I admittedly get defensive when inaccuracies of belief, terminology, history, and the like come up and are passed off as fact.

<Rant>

In the blog my friend refers to Mr Jeffs as "Mormon".  This is inaccurate.  The term "Mormon" typically refers to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Not the Reformed, Re-Organized, Restored or <fill-in-the-blank> Church.  But while we’re at it, the term "Mormon" — although it has no official standing — is widely used in the media to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Use of the term "Mormon fundamentalists" to refer to polygamists is misleading and invites misunderstanding and misinterpretation. No members of the Church today can enter into polygamy without being excommunicated. Since those who practice polygamy cannot be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is incorrect to refer to them as "Mormon fundamentalists."

There is a lot of confusion about this term "Mormon".  In the press, the Associated Press Stylebook has recognized this difficulty and specified that the term Mormon is a nickname that should be applied exclusively to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that it is not accurately applied to any other person or organization.

Sometimes you hear the argument that because Jeffs and his followers use the Book of Mormon they should be considered Mormons. However, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, evangelicals and a host of other faiths believe in Jesus and claim the Bible as their own, yet all consider themselves separate and distinct faiths.

The same is true for all religious groups who believe in Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and use the Book of Mormon. For example, the Community of Christ church claims Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon but changed its name from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be recognized as a different faith.

Another thing I hear is "I know all about…" or "You believe…" — statements that absolutely belie rationality.  If I had a nickel for every time someone told me "You’re not Christian, because you believe…." or "I know all about your religion….."

Please.

1) You’ve never practiced the faith, yet you *know* all about it…(from someone else who had never practiced it but knows all about it too)

2) Reading The Book of Mormon (or any of the other texts) doesn’t make you an expert (if you know all about it, you must be an expert) any more than reading a Physics book makes you a Physicist (or knowledgeable like unto one).

3)Telling me that you know what I believe must mean that you a) currently practice what I practice, b) used to practice what I practice,  or c) know what I think and feel.   Most people that say this and can  say it with any shred of accuracy fall into (A) and (B).  I’m skeptical of persons that fall in (C) and say they know what I believe.  All others….please.

I heard a man once say that back in the days of travelling encyclopedia salesmen, before he would even talk about buying a set he said he simply asked the salesman, "What does it say in your encyclopedia about the Mormons?"  If the salesman didn’t know or if the encyclopedia account was incorrect, the salesman never got past the door.  He said, "A lot can be said for accuracy.  If a book (or in our case–web sites, blogs…) aren’t accurate about what they say about the Mormons, they’re probably inaccurate about a lot of other things." 

</Rant>

The silver lining to all of this, is that the aforementioned friend is a dear friend whom I wouldn’t trade for all the encyclopedias in the world (accurate or otherwise).

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Polygamy in Utah – Warren Jeffs – What is a Mormon..etc

  1. David

    A few thoughts …
     

    1) You\’ve never practiced the faith, yet you *know* all about it…(from someone else who had never practiced it but knows all about it too)
    I don\’t recall ever writing that I "know all about" Mormons or any other faith.  Regardless.  One doesn\’t need to know everything about a subject to comment about it.  Otherwise, no one would qualify.  It\’s a discussion.  I may have an opinion and you (and everyone else) may have an opinion.  After discussion, the end result (we hope) is a closer understanding of the subject matter – AND perhaps some proximity to the truth …
     
    2) Reading The Book of Mormon (or any of the other texts) doesn\’t make you an expert (if you know all about it, you must be an expert) any more than reading a Physics book makes you a Physicist (or knowledgeable like unto one).
    Perhaps – but it doesn\’t not  make you an expert either.  I don\’t claim to be an expert.  I claim to have some knowledge to share – and a perspective that revolves around that knowledge.  I\’m also confident enough in my studies to discuss them with others openly.  If I\’m shown to be wrong on some point or another, I\’ll adjust my thinking.  I hope others might do the same …
     
    3)Telling me that you know what I believe must mean that you a) currently practice what I practice, b) used to practice what I practice,  or c) know what I think and feel.   Most people that say this and can  say it with any shred of accuracy fall into (A) and (B).  I\’m skeptical of persons that fall in (C) and say they know what I believe.  All others….please.
    I\’m sure you aren\’t refering to me when you use the phrase "Telling me that you know what I believe …".  That\’s the purpose of the dialectic – to determine and adjust thought.  I think anyone would be hard-pressed to show any examples of my "telling others what they think".  My goal is to determine what they think – and that requires listening.  Sometimes I don\’t hear much, so I become a bit more provocative … but that serves to open the conversation.
    As I mentioned in my blog, I\’ve studied Comparative Religions for many years.  My conclusion is that the people within those faiths – such as they are – have beliefs that vary widely and that their experience may or may not match that of the doctrines and dogmas their organizations publish.
    I have a very good friend in New England to thank for that.  He is a Jehova\’s Witness who has managed to discover the Jesus behind the teachings.  He\’s still a Witness, still fellowships with those folks, but sticks out like a sore thumb because his faith isn\’t mechanical – it\’s genuine and built on a relationship  with his Creator.  Anyone who has encountered The Maker would recognize that.  I\’ve met some Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and even some Evangelicals <g> who seem to have been touched by their Maker and stand out as well.  Bless them! 😉

  2. Richard

    Actually, I was speaking generally.  My rant was general and as any Mormon who has served a mission can tell you….the arguments are all the same…well they fit into categories, but …you get the point.  In my post you will see that I say "This is what I hear…" and  not "this is what was said.."
     
    1) You didn\’t say that, and I was simply giving an example of an argument I hear that eminated from the post in which Jeffs was mentioned to be a Mormon.  You post, which was your opinion, labeled Jeffs as a Mormon.  This was incorrect, and it was that single instance that I extrapolated (perhaps incorrectly) a "tone".
     
    2) Another case of me taking your comments and (perhaps incorrectly) mapping them to the same comments others have made.
     
    3) No I was not referring to you.  I have also studied Comparative Religions, but I might have done it differently.  I actually went to Hebrew School with two friends (I didn\’t graduate), and took Moody Bible institute courses, and attended the LDS Missionary Training Center.  I\’ve paid tithing to Charles Stanley\’s Southern Baptist congregation (which I belonged to for two years) so…I only really care to hear about a religion from THAT religion\’s faithful (and current) adherents and let *me* make the comparison.  It doesn\’t make sense (to me) to compare a religion to something else based on what others say.
     
    Which brings me to the thing you said here about "…that the people within those faiths – such as they are – have beliefs that vary widely and that their experience may or may not match that of the doctrines and dogmas their organizations publish."  This statement is SO important.  Especially when speaking about LDS.  As you mention in your post, you\’ve read the LDS canon of scripture.  Anything…ANYTHING…mentioned OUTSIDE of that canon is NOT LDS doctrine.  PERIOD.  PERIOD.  Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, etc published "Discourses".  This is NOT doctrine.  Even the book titled "Mormon Doctrine" is NOT doctrine, nor are they published by the LDS church.  Doctrine is what is contained in the four texts: The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Convenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Holy Bible-KJV.  Those books define "mormon doctrine".  Other books published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be considered authoritative, and they will refer to the canon for doctrine.   It is my FIRM belief that once EVERYONE understood that simple fact (inside AND outside the church), misunderstandings would GREATLY decrease.
     
    Most of my colleagues are non-LDS and most of the people in my close circle are non-LDS.  Many are very religious and it\’s easy to connect and relate with them.  I totally agree that those who have built their faith around a personal relationship with their Maker are very easy to get along with; despite the differences.

  3. Ash

    On the subject of the FLDS, I found the book "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith" by Jon Krakauer to be interesting and informative.
     
    http://www.amazon.com/Under-Banner-Heaven-Story-Violent/dp/0385509510/sr=8-1/qid=1167949221/ref=sr_1_1/102-6939137-5964941?ie=UTF8&s=books

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