A couple of interesting stories appeared over the weekend in the Salt Lake Tribune and in Deseret News. Both are related to the FLDS situation that continues to dominate headlines these days.
The Salt Lake Tribune article is an opinion piece written by Fundamentalist Latter Day Saint Maggie Jessop. She begins, “So, you want to hear from the FLDS women, huh? OK, you asked for it.” Mrs. Jessop writes with biting sarcasm in an effort to debunk the media stereotype of FLDS “uneducated, underprivileged, information-deprived, brainless, spineless, poor, picked-on, dependent, misled class of women identified as ‘brain-washed.'” A couple of Mrs. Jessop’s arguments sound somewhat familiar to me. Consider this:
“I have never been guilty of intentionally breaking the law, never been in a courtroom, never even spoken to an attorney.
“In the face of the holocaust going on, most people want to know the truth, right? Well, do you get truth from liars? Come on, John Doe-Head, do you revel in crude and erroneous sensationalism? What kind of a person are you, anyway? Isn’t it better to get the truth from those who really know?
“…I have broken no law. I have never abused my children. I have injured no one in the choices I have made.”
I’d like to mention two observations regarding Mrs. Jessop’s article. The first is her interesting claim of being innocent of intentionally breaking the law. Though illegal activities allegedly take place regularly in the FLDS community (“spiritual” marriage of young girls to older men, sexual assault of children, polygamy, etc.), as a representative of FLDS women, Mrs. Jessop suggests they are, nevertheless, guiltless. This reminds me of an 1844 public declaration by LDS Prophet Joseph Smith, then husband of thirty-four women:
“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.
“I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them [his accusers] all perjurers” (History of the Church 6:411).
Another observation about Mrs. Jessop’s article has to do with her assertion that the only place to get accurate information about the FLDS is from the FLDS themselves. I can almost hear her say, as I so often hear Latter-day Saints say, “You wouldn’t go to a Chevy dealer to get accurate information about a Ford, would you?”
I find this type of cultural similarity between the FLDS and the LDS intriguing. Are Latter-day Saints able to see the parallels? If so, does it cause them to ponder these things in their hearts and minds?
I’m saddened to think that Mormons probably can’t see themselves at all in the FLDS story. They are too distracted by a concentrated effort to make sure nobody draws any comparison between LDS and FLDS — which brings me to the Deseret News.
Joseph A. Cannon wrote a Deseret News editorial for Sunday (May 11, 2008) titled, “Adoption of FLDS name is akin to identity theft.” Here Mr. Cannon argues that it is not only improper to join the word “Mormon” to “Fundamentalist,” but that is also wrong to join “Fundamentalist” to “Latter Day Saint.” He writes,
“…much misidentification simply results from the confusion between the terms LDS and FLDS.
“Not only are many of the FLDS teachings in conflict with, and repugnant to, the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but, in fact, a person who believes in or practices the teachings of the fundamentalists would be excommunicated from the LDS Church.
“While not strictly speaking identity theft, the adoption of FLDS by this group at best is confusing and at worst undermines the credibility of the Latter-day Saints and tarnishes the LDS ‘brand.’ Sometimes damage to a brand or a trademark has been called attempted identity theft at the corporate level.”
After providing an analogy to illustrate his argument, Mr. Cannon attempts to further distance the LDS Church from the FLDS Church by subtly questioning the latter latter-day church’s true origin:
“Similarly, this group which claims to be a break-off of the LDS Church is, as noted, utterly different in its beliefs and practices.” (emphasis mine)
Finally, Mr. Cannon concludes,
“Whatever their motivation, the consequence of this group’s adoption of the name FLDS has damaged the LDS Church’s identity, brand name and reputation.”
Okay. If use of the terms “Fundamentalist Mormon” or “Polygamist Mormon” generate too much confusion, and we can’t use the FLDS’ own name or initials without thoughtlessly damaging the LDS brand name, what should we call the FLDS? In his editorial Mr. Cannon provides no alternative suggestions. Maybe you folks reading Mormon Coffee have some ideas…