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Dave, I enjoyed this post; and it made me chuckle a couple times.

But I have to say I got the opposite impression from the news stories I saw on television. I saw interviews with locals who were very concerned (although, they didn't provide compelling arguments to justify their concern). Someone even literally said 'we don't want another Waco.' A local councilman (or some leader-type) also expressed some concern because originally that spot where they built that temple was supposed to be for a 'hunting ranch.' So, locals have them on their radar, I think.

I found the 'hot button terms' that you list a little irresponsible (not you listing them, but the media using them). Conjuring up images of Waco seemed especially inappropriate (at least in the sensationalistic way that media presents it). If Waco images are gonna be conjured up, I would hope it's in a sincere 'how can we avoid that' kind of way; not in a 'stay tuned, this could get juicy' kina of way.

I don't know, Waco may hit those guys, they're a little crazy.

But here, they come and go as they please. I don't know if the local stores love them or not, probably they don't care either. Their money is just as green as anybody's.

But, like I said, they're nuts. Stay tuned.

This goes a long way in any small town. Hardware stores are the small town equivalent of country clubs. If you know your tools and pay cash, you're a winner, no matter what strange cult you belong to.

Hillarious!

The hardware store comment is too true. It sure makes a difference up here in Alberta with the Hutterites.

Yeah, great post, Dave. I love the attitude!

Interesting thoughts, Dave. Many of the reporters following the FLDS story are very un-informed about the group, and about religion more generally. Their normal 'beat' is local politics or state news, and when asked to cover a religion story they rely on their stereotypes rather than investigate deeply. A rumor here, a quote there, and get it written before the deadline. You and I may know that David Koresh is different from Warren Jeffs, but others see the compounds in Waco and Eldorado as inhabited by kooky extremists who fit in the same category. If one claimed apocalyptic visions, stored a cache of weapons, preached of armageddon being just around the corner, and went in flames, then the other likely believes it as well. (Hmm... the resemblance between Koresh and Jeffs may bear some similarity, at least superficially.)

For that matter, many believe the same about more mainstream religions. Just look at attitudes about Catholicism for an example (see this url: http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/abuse.html). People are fascinated by stories of sex, whether it is sex in the form of polygamy or as abstinence. When religion enters the picture, it becomes even more fascinating.

(2) Mormons can get along with anyone

Dave, officially they're *not* Mormons.

http://www.lds.org/newsroom/mistakes/0,15331,3885-1,00.html

Aside from that, I got the same feeling about the article yesterday that you did. They sure wanted to have something to write up, but it just isn't there.

To just look at what the FLDS is building down there, it's pretty admirable. Self-sufficiency is a virtue, right? Unfortunately, because there's a religious motive behind it, it suddenly goes from being a 'self-sufficient community' or 'commune' to being labled a 'compound.'

Sure, granted, there's a pretty high likelihood that they're harboring one of the FBI's most wanted men, and that's a bit of a strike against them. Ok, so that's a really big strike against them. We'll just wait and see where it goes, I guess.

From what the sheriff said in that piece, it looks as if local law enforcement has been granted peaceful access no problem as needed, and hasn't seen anything amiss. We can hope, just for the sake of avoiding innocent deaths, that people will not let prejudices and fears overwhelm them and push things to a Missouriesque fever-pitch.

Naiah,

I can't help but disagree with just about everything you said (no offense); here are my thoughts.

First, once the leader of your religion (religion of about 6,000 which also lives in the same community) gets put on the FBI Most Wanted List, the time to weigh in a groups virtuous or hard-working habits is over. There is a MAN HUNT for this man; the time for 'waiting and seeing' is pretty much by definition over. I mean, maybe history will judge the FLDS differently, but the debate over the merits of this religion is not going to happen before Jeffs is captured.

Second, I was under the impression that the
local law enforcement was concerned with the situation (if we're talking about El Dorado, TX, where the 'compound' is). I did not get the idea that sherriffs come and go as they please. I thought I heard that the land there was originally zoned as a hunting lodge, a temple started going up, and no official law enforcement or community official has been allowed there since (although no attempts have been made either, but it's due to fear of provoking an incident). This is a mixture of what I've heard reported; but obviously may not be true. Are you thinking of something in particular when you say that sherriffs have gone in and out? I had not seen such a report.

Third, (and admittedly least importantly), if a group of people who claim to be Mormon, read the Book of Mormon, and are refered to by most media as fundamentalist Mormon, are not Mormon, then what are they? The church is way over stepping its appropriate role (in my mind) by assuming that it can label other groups. Yes, there are important, significant theological differences between the mainstream church and them, but how can the church possibly justify telling others what it can and cannot call THEMSELVES? I just don't see the 'disservice' that the media does to 'mainstream' Mormons by referring to groups as they refer to themselves. Also, what's the alternative, using the church's full name each time it's referred to: the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? We would rather have them drag the Savior's name into it then have them share a 19th century nickname with us (nickname given for a book both they and us believe in)???

Mike: from everything I've read, this group is rather 'apocalyptic' in its teachings; so it's something to consider. And, while media can get carried away with portraying that aspect, I don't remember hearing anyone rebutting that their teachings seem to have an 'end times; ultimate war between good and evil approaching' feel (in other words, I think this group is potentially very dangerous, even though the tone that the media uses to present them is unnecessarily inflammatory).

(PS): I find it ironic that the church has recently sought to distance itself from the term 'Mormon' and now tries to claim a monopoly on the term.

Back on my mission, when people would ask us if we were Mormons, we'd usually say 'No, that was a prophet who lived here many centuries ago.' This was to 1. feel smug, and 2. get into homes where people wouldn't allow Mormons because they just wouldn't, but they would allow missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ in. Looks like the church isn't above the ridiculous, petty word games that I played as a 19 year old...

Good post, Dave. I enjoyed it.

And I'm agreed with APJ on nomenclature. I've said it elsewhere (and I'm pretty sure Dave has said this, too).

Mainstream Christians say "Mormons aren't Christians" and we say "well, we believe in Christ, so we're Christians. Besides, who gave you the right to decide who gets called Christians, anyway?" Both of these arguments cut directly against any assertion that FLDS aren't Mormons.

First -- They believe the BoM; they believe in Joseph Smith; they believe Mormon was a prophet; they use the BoM as scripture. Ergo, they're Mormons.

And second, who gave us the right to decide who gets called Mormons, anyway? If it's wrong for Protestants to take the role of self-appointed nomenclature police on who gets called Christians, well, it's equally wrong for us to take the role of self-appointed nomenclature police on who gets called Mormons.

I think it would be helpful to remember that several of these people have committed pretty horrible crimes. Jeffs isn't on the 10 most wanted list for tax evasion.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for buzzing a child molester's house with a plane, Dave? I know that's not what you meant, but it sounds like you're saying we should just leave this poor cult of child molesters alone already.

As for them playing nice with the neighbors, I'm not surprised. They are laying low while they are in the minority in the town. But have you seen reporters try to film anywhere in Colorado City or Hilldale? When these scummy polygamists are in the majority, they harass any outsiders, and even call the polygamist sherrif out on you.

You may not want to term it like this, but this is a cult. And I think a pretty dangerous one, too.

Okay, Dave,

Since people are taking your 'plays well with neighbors' assessment so seriously, I have to ask if you have any evidence of this besides a lack of evidence in an LA Times story. I'm not saying your wrong, but I'm just surprised, since, with what I saw of it on the news, I got the exact opposite impression. Every 'local' (in Texas AND Arizona/Utah) expressed some level of concern with their presence. Laypeople seemed to be fearful, wanting officials to do something about it. And town leaders seemed to act as if they had their hands tied, but would like to do something about it.

Again, just my impressions, but I saw several news reports about it and can't believe that I would have missed the existence of your point of view.

APJ, for this post I'm basically playing off the linked LA Times article. Obviously, I haven't visited Eldorado, Texas, so in that sense the reporter is better informed than I am. But I was trying to read the story against the evident bias of the reporter. He seems quite willing to apply all those negative judgments (prejudgments?) to the FLDS despite the fact the story gives no actual examples. That's odd for any reporter, much less a big-time paper like the Times.

I have read plenty of media stories as they have come out about Hildale and Colorado City. And I've read Under the Banner of Heaven. I accept Krakauer's portrayal of FLDS polygamy. I wasn't really trying to integrate all of that into this post.

Say, did you notice that Krakauer was in the plane with the LA Times reporter? That might have been the most interesting fact in the story.

No, I didn't notice; I must have missed that part...I think we agree that it's frustrating to see some reporters not just being ill-informed but persuing a certain negative angle that there are obvious counterarguments to. The thing that gets me is how so many try to put their best 'this is a breaking story' spin on it, when I'm thinking, 'hey, I read this book a couple years ago (Banner of Heaven), and the problem has existed for generations.'

APJ:
This is the statement from the LA Times piece that led me to believe that law enforcement officials had been out there:

"'There is always the possibility for trouble when dealing with such a secretive group,' said David Doran, the sheriff of Schleicher County, which includes Eldorado and the compound. 'But we have been out there numerous times, and everything is on the level.'

As for their not being Mormon 'officially,' I fear the irony of my statement was lost in the bits and bytes of the intonationless internet. My apologies.

As for my stement about waiting and seeing, I was referring to the uncertainty of whether Jeffs is actually present there, and honestly, nothing but time will tell on that score. He was supposedly seen from the air at the dedication, but who's to say he isn't long gone by now? Or actually hiding in an underground room right there in El Dorado? Like I said, we will have to wait and see, as the FBI continues its search, where he turns up and whether or how he gets turned in or apprehended. I was not suspending any moral judgement on the man. His crimes speak for him on that score.

As for your comments APJ, no offense, but I take issue with you saying that because of Jeffs's crimes the entire religion should be called in to question:

First, once the leader of your religion (religion of about 6,000 which also lives in the same community) gets put on the FBI Most Wanted List, the time to weigh in a groups virtuous or hard-working habits is over. There is a MAN HUNT for this man; the time for 'waiting and seeing' is pretty much by definition over.

Granted, I, myself, believe Jeffs to be about as much of a prophet as the sock on my left foot, but not every member of that church is a child molester or a rapist. They *are* hardworking people of good habits and firm faith, entire groups of which are working to distance themselves from and renounce Jeffs and his nonsense. I have friends among them, and I can assure you that they are fine and good people who truly believe they are living the Lord's will, and that this entire fiasco is, and has been for some time, tearing them apart.

Not to single you out, APJ, but this: "There is a MAN HUNT for this man; the time for 'waiting and seeing' is pretty much by definition over." is exactly the note to sound that builds to Naiah's fever pitch, and rarely, if ever, can yield peaceful and appropriate solutions. Everyone says they fear another Waco, and it's exactly this kind of thinking that will yield such. Let's be careful. Remember, news reports are there to get ratings, build viewership and sell advertising slots. Look through the hype; watch for the facts. Don't let Fox News play you. Peel back the inflammatory language, and look for what hard facts are being shared. (Which, about this story really isn't much lately. It's just got such a maldramatic background that they can't resist running non-story scare pieces on it.) Let's keep our heads, here, or innocent people are going to die.

Anonymous: I think we agree more than we disagree...I also think a lot of the reporting is unnecessarily inflammatory (as I mention several times above). I see why my 'MAN HUNT' comment could be seen the way you say, so just let me say, the comment was meant to convey that I think we need to go after Jeffs, and get him (MAN HUNT, not sect hunt). And I think it's fair to say that 'waiting and seeing' time is over as to arresting Jeff.

Naiah: sorry, I think I misinterpreted the point you were trying to make...and I think we agree more about this than we disagree. I definitely agree that we can't stereotype all people associated with polygamy as 'Warren Jeffs.' My point in mentioning his followers and the community wasn't to try to condemn them; merely to point out the difficulty that capturing him may pose. But yeah, I agree that it's wrong to draw unwarranted conclusions about them. (I know there are variations of polygamous groups, and differing opinions even within those groups, although).
So, yeah, not only is the internet's lack of intonation a problem, but also my interpretation skills...hahaha. I still stand by what I said; but obviously was addressing it to someone who hadn't disagreed with it the way I'd thought. Sorry, fellow Mormon (and by Mormon I mean 'someone who visits a website called 'mormoninquiry.typepad.com' at least occassionally).

Anyone see that X-files episode where Agent Scully narrowly misses getting impregnated with an alien slug by a bunch of Southern Utahns?

THEY'RE NOT MORMONS!!!!!!! Geez, as a new member I have enough trouble explaining these nutjobs to my "gentile" friends and neighbors and here you go practically welcoming them into the fold!

As our friend Napoleon would say, "Idiot!"

Seth, I missed that X Files episode. In fact, I pretty much missed them all, but I guess they're still out there.

Tony, I understand your frustration with your Christian friends -- but I can't really control how they think or feel about Mormons. That's their problem. But we still need an acceptable term or name for members of those denominations that accept the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's authority but dispute the succession through later Presidents of the LDS Church. I'm afraid "nutjobs" just won't do. And it has to be something shorter than "members of denominations accepting the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith but rejecting some or all of the line of authority through Brigham Young and his successors."

Just because they are, in some circumstances, accorded the term "Mormon" doesn't mean you, me, or any other LDS Church member thereby endorses what they believe or what they do, anymore than Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodoxians endorse each other's beliefs and practices when they acknowledge each other as "Christians." Or anymore than Evangelicals endorse what David Koresh, a fellow Christian, believed and did. Run that last example by your Christian friends and it might help them grasp the flaw in their way of thinking.

The church website suggests Latter-Day Saints instead of Mormon...ironic???

It says the term Mormon is not properly applied to these "Latter-day Saint sects."

Really, PR man??? We really prefer the term 'Latter-Day Saint' for these guys to 'Mormon'??? Was I just misinterpreting all those times you requested to go by the 'official name of the church' instead of the derogatory nickname 'mormon' in the press a few years ago??? If anyone can distinguish these two positions logically without saying one had to be wrong, s/he will have my utmost respect.

Tony, If all this concerns you, may I suggest that you stop referring to your Christian friends as 'gentiles.' (tongue in cheek)...

Reno's gone, and Gonzales is busy torturing Arabs. Raids on Christian compounds are out of style this decade.

Do Seventh-Day Adventist offshoot Branch Davidians count as Evangelicals?

John, SDAs don't appear in Martin's Kingdom of the Cults as a cult; they are considered a Christian sect (not quite as pure as Evangelicals, yet not tainted enough to be labeled a "cult"). Also informative is the NAMB (mission organization of the Southern Baptists) writeup on SDA which finds them "in basic agreement with historic, biblical Christianity. Thus, the SDA is not a cult by definition."

Also, see the Wikipedia entry on Branch Davidians.

"Do Seventh-Day Adventist offshoot Branch Davidians count as Evangelicals?"

Actually, the Koresh Branch Davidians were an offshoot of an offshoot of Seventh-Day Adventists.

And for those keeping score, yes, Warren Jeffs is more similar to David Koresh than Gordon B. Hinkley, or even Stephen M. Veazey of the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS).

Throw away the Evangelicals' definition of cults, throw away the Bo Gritz manual of survivalists and look objectively at the facts surrounding Vernon Howell's (a/k/a David Koresh) crimes: stockpiles of illegal weapons, rape, child abuse, child sexual abuse. What you are left with is a depraved individual using a his religion and the people who followed him for his own depraved purposes (Charles Manson, anyone?)

Look, I'm for religious freedom. I will vehemently defend anyone's right to practice their religion, regardless of how bizarre or esoteric it may seem. However, I am fully against individuals abusing men, women, and children in the name of religion. That's what David Koresh did, and that's what Warren Jeffs is doing.

I don't understand why current members of the Church are so reluctant to condemn his theocratic corruption of government in Colorado City and Hilldale, and his depraved practices concerning women and young girls. Anyone care to explain?

Polly,

I don't condemn them, because largely, I don't know a thing about them.

I've heard that there are abuses "out there." If that's what's up in Colorado City, sure, I condemn it. I categorically condemn that kind of stuff.

But really I don't hear much about these guys one way or the other.

Seth R.,

I have no problem with those who withhold judgment one way or t'other because he or she doesn't know much about Warren Jeffs or the FLDS. (FYI: here's Jeffs' FBI poster.)

However, having moved from Las Vegas (near the FLDS home base, as well as a "welfare farm" of sorts in Ely) where the public attention was turned to the FLDS in the past few years, to Texas, where the public attention is being turned to the FLDS in Eldorado, I have been asked on more than one occasion what I think of the FLDS or their leader.

I had to inform myself because the biggest disservice would be to shrug and say, "I don't know," and let linger unstated assumptions of my Church condoning FLDS practices (They claim they are "LDS" and "Mormon" after all.)

So, while some may not think it's fair that we members of the Brighamite LDS church based in Salt Lake City get to define who is and who is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the "Mormons." (I still remember that tagline from the Homefronts commercials I watched growing up as a non-member. Great brand marketing!) I feel it is imperative to draw those distinctions.

Here's an interesting primer on the FLDS.

On the question of whether FLDS members should be referred to as "Mormons," readers should go read the interesting discussion on just that point over at the Purim blog.

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