The LDS Paradox on Polygamy

28 Apr

From the Enduring to the End blog –


Everyone has an opinion about it, and they always seem to manifest whenever the Fundamentalist LDS Church has a run-in with the government.

I have to give Brother Murray over at Messenger and Advocate a huge thumbs-up for his continued coverage of the case in Eldorado, Texas as it continues to unfold. His post, Standing with Our FLDS Sisters and Brothers, sparked my interest when I read it earlier this evening–especially as I read the reactions of other LDS bloggers on the web.

As members of the LDS Church, we seem to be in agreement that how the FLDS are being treated is unprofessional, and most likely un-Constitutional. It’s disconcerting to see that an affidavit based on the claims of one family on the compound is enough cause to bring the state government of Texas descending upon the entire compound to take 400+ children and their mothers away. Especially since the original subject of the affidavit–a single girl–cannot be located. I have seen, as I’ve read different reactions of the web, that I am not alone in my frustration that the FLDS church should have their Constitutional rights so blatantly denied.

Where members of the Church vary–vastly, I might add–is how they choose to distance themselves from the FLDS themselves. The title of Brother Murray’s post really poses this question in my mind. Where do we stand in relation to the FLDS sect?

Our churches are different. Our doctrines are different. But being LDS, we are taught that all men and women are literal children of a Heavenly Father and Mother. Should we not, therefore, look upon these men and women–our brothers and sisters–with compassion and understanding?

I must admit, I don’t see a whole lot of that.

I see a lot of personal attacks that condemn the collective FLDS church for their belief in polygamy, and for the presence of teenage marriages and pregnancies. I see comments that make the association with all FLDS to criminals–pedophiles, rapists, wife abusers, and the like–even though this case only represents one compound in Texas.

And I have to say something, even though many members of the Church who want to condemn the FLDS aren’t going to like it.

When the LDS Church practiced polygamy, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be huge differences in age between the participants; and marriages EVERYWHERE were like that. Believe me–I’ve had to dig through marriage records from 19th century Virginia, and you’d swear the entire state was full of pedophiles, if you judge them through a contemporary perspective/ bias. So I have to question: Were their men sick, depraved, heartless wife abusers? Were their women voiceless, ignorant child brides?

There’s no proof that they weren’t. Does that mean they were?

It’s in that spirit that I look upon the Church’s polygamous roots AND the FLDS church. I’ll admit, I have an added sympathy for the LDS chuch’s polygamy because I believe it was ordained of God through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Plus, I’ve read accounts of women like Emmeline B. Well, who was an advocate of women’s suffrage AND polygamy. Of the practice, she said:

The world says polygamy makes women inferior to men — we think differently.
Polygamy gives women more time for thought, for mental culture, more freedom of
action, a broader field of labor… and leads women more directly to God, the
fountain of all truth.

The US government looked upon the LDS church and women like Wells like they were too foolish and indoctrinated to make their own decisions, and tried to “save” them by making their lives a literal Hell on earth in order to dissuade them from their beliefs.

As I look at what is happening to the FLDS in Texas, I can’t help but notice the relationship. And because I don’t have a huge chip on my shoulder about polygamy, I sympathize with the FLDS. I realize that a lot of what I’m going to read and hear about them is going to be distorted by the ignorance of others, much like my beliefs are on a regular basis.

So when I see a comment over at By Common Consent from a practicing member of the FLDS church–and her comment reads like a perfectly rational, educated woman capable of making her own decisions–I’m not surprised. Her remarks about her church really resonate with me:

Most of the members do hold jobs. The FLDS, and other fundamentalist, are
some of the best in the construction industry. In fact, we have built many of
the LDS buildings in Utah and Arizona. My husband works construction with a
fundamentalist that’s framed many LDS chapels. When the Stake Center in
Snowflake was remodeled, who did the LDS Church hire? Once again,
fundamentalist. We’re grateful for the work we do for the LDS Church, and we
hope to do much more. …

So we’re willing to tolerate the FLDS when they’re building our chapels, but we can’t find it in our hearts to be compassionate towards them for their differences? Weren’t we, as members of the LDS Church, just taught by Elder Wirthlin to be more tolerant and accepting of other people’s differences less than a week ago in General Conference? Or is that council only for people whose culture and religion match our own?

…Many in my community were children during the Short Creek raid in the 1950’s. They are extremely paranoid about outsiders. Many of us that are more progressive have tried to open up our community, but this raid will make things more difficult for us.
Personally, I’ve been a little scared by this. It’s not very comforting to know that if anyone claims abuse against another family in my church, that the state can come in and take my kids away with no cause. Can you imagine that? How can we not view the government as our enemy?

And considering the only thing that separates my church and her church in the minds of so many people is the word “Fundamentalist,” I am concerned. If the government of ANY state is still willing to throw Due Process out, despite everything that their dealings with the LDS church should have taught this nation, what is stopping any state from repeating the mistakes of Missouri and its extermination order?

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we may still be in more danger than we’re willing to admit. And the LDS Church does a lot to separate itself from the FLDS, but I wonder at what cost? Because our members are saying a lot of things at the moment that even though they match our doctrine by renouncing polygamy, they don’t sound very Christian in the way they condemn the FLDS for worshipping “how, where, and what they may.”

Do we believe in the 11th Article of Faith or don’t we? Because as I look around the Bloggernacle, I’m not entirely sure. Not when polygamy is viewed as something ghastly and abominable, instead of something that people all over the world hold dear to their hearts as a part of their way of life, the way our LDS ancestors once did.

The LDS persecution complex has been so sensitive to polygamy for so long, it’s not like members of the LDS church haven’t had time to think about this issue on their own. I remember talking to a Sister in the lunch line at Youth Conference last year about polygamy and she said that she didn’t think she’d be able to support polygamy even if the LDS Church re-instituted the practice. And ever since then, I’ve had that question in my mind.

Could I ever support polygamy, or be in a polygamous union, if the LDS Church were to suddenly encourage it in the same magnitude it encourages us to prepare for and seek eternal marriage?

I trust that these circumstances are highly unlikely, and chances are excellent I’ll never have to bear this particular cross. But I’ve still given the matter a lot of thought as I’ve woven my testimony of the Church, which has raised a question that ALL members of the LDS Church must answer:

Is there anything I wouldn’t do to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Personally, the Church requires things of me every day that are infinitely harder for me to accept than polygamy would be.

Perhaps we all should ask ourselves that question a little more often if polygamy is the biggest sacrifice we can think to make.

Taken from

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Posted by on April 28, 2008 in Marriage



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