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LDS Upset With Media's Reporting Of Mormonism

LDS Church Is Upset With Media's Reporting Of Mormonism And Warren Jeffs

By John R. Llewellyn
May 12, 2006

When Warren Jeffs surprisingly made the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted list it galvanized a frenzy of national media attention about a man who is the leader of Utah's largest mind control cult. From Warren's point of view, he is merely doing what Mormon polygamist do - bootlegging plural marriages.

On May 10th CNN's Anderson Cooper hosted a two hour special about Warren Jeffs and Mormon polygamy - one of the better documentaries. During the final minutes he conducted two important interviews with the Salt Lake LDS Temple clearly in the background. Using the LDS Temple as a backdrop caused the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protest.

In a morning radio news report, May 12, 2006, the Church owned KSL radio station announced its objection to the use of the word "Mormon" and using the Temple as a backdrop when referring to Warren Jeffs and polygamy. The criticism that appeared in the Church owned Deseret Morning News, that same morning, was even more stern:

"Refer[ring] to these groups as 'Mormons' or 'Mormon sects' ... are "misleading and confusing to the vast majority of audiences who rightfully associate the term 'Mormon' with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

When CNN "superimposed the face of Jeffs over an image of the LDS Church's Salt Lake Temple," the Church said it "is not just careless editing but highly offensive to members of the LDS Church."

The article made reference to a 1998 statement made by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley on Larry King Live, "the Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy and excommunicates members who do."

The Deseret News went on to say, "there is no such thing as a 'Mormon fundamentalist,' nor are there 'Mormon sects.' The inclusion of the word 'Mormon' is misleading and inaccurate."

The concern of the LDS Church is understandable. But CNN did make it clear that Warren Jeffs and the rest of the polygamists were not associated with the LDS Church. The Church would like to separate itself from Warren Jeffs and everything he represents, but can it really?

What words other than 'Mormon fundamentalist' would be more appropriate in describing or identifying Warren Jeffs? He relies upon the same scriptures as the LDS Church. Both the LDS Church and Warren's church, The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, [FLDS] worship Joseph Smith as the author of the Book of Mormon and founder of the Church of Christ, later changed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ever since the Book of Mormon was published, those who believed it was historical fact have been known as Mormons.

For over fifty years the members who splintered from the mother Church have been allowed to organize unimpeded by Church or government. As a consequence they have bred like rabbits, sunk their roots deep, and founded incorporated priesthood owned towns. Mormon fundamentalism is now a valid subculture with its own heroes, literature and symbols. The polygamists call themselves "Mormon fundamentalists" because that is what they are, and claim to be more Mormon than the mother Church which has discontinued practicing what was once essential Mormon beliefs. What other terms can the media use? From a historical point of view the media is right on target.

To say there is no connection between the fundamentalists and the LDS Church is simply not accurate. The primary difference between the two is authority. In Mormon scripture, only "one man" on earth at a time has the authority to act for God and seal plural marriages [Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132, Verse 7]. There are several fundamentalists leaders besides Warren Jeffs who claim to be that "one man." All factions, including the LDS Church, believe plural marriage is a correct principle, but only the Church has withdrawn the authority to practice plural marriage.

In addition to the above, consider the following: There is currently in Utah a growing movement to decriminalize polygamy and present polygamy as an acceptable form of marriage and an alternative lifestyle. Neither the LDS Church or Utah Government, primarily the Utah Attorney General, has voiced opposition to this movement. In fact, the Utah Attorney General has made the statement at a Town Meeting in St. George, Utah, that he will not prosecute a religious tenet. Polygamy, as defined in the bigamy statute, is an LDS religious tenet.

Government and media have focused on Warren Jeffs but he is not the only ruthless, tyrannical leader in the Mormon fundamentalist subculture. For some reason, the pro polygamists and polygamy sympathizers think that decriminalization - making polygamists less accountable - will make them more law abiding. It won't work! Mormon fundamentalists are uncompromising. Polygamy is the only marital relationship their God will recognize. In other words, polygamy is at war with monogamy. Mormon fundamentalists only recognize that marital relationship that is sealed by proper priesthood authority, making all other women fair game. In their eyes, a civil marriage is invalid, therefore, it is no sin to take the wife of another man - if he can convert her.

Mormon fundamentalism is a reflection of the LDS Church prior to 1890 when polygamy was discontinued. Mormon fundamentalism is a "tar baby" that the LDS Church is stuck with and will ultimately have to deal with. Its not going away.


John R. Llewellyn is the author of four books dealing with Mormon polygamy. His latest is Polygamy's Rape of Rachael Strong, A Protected Environment for Predators.

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