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Mainstream Mormons who are upset about this are not "riding to the rescue" polygamists qua polygamists. Most of us who have written about this have clearly stated that we do not sympathize with polygamy, or child abuse, or sexual abuse, or forced marriage, or underage marriage.

We object to the Texas round-up because it appears so unjustified, so ham-fisted, so much "if they did it to them, they can do it to anybody else, including us." Doesn't matter if the victims are polygamists, or Jews, or blacks, or survivalists, or skateboarders, or Democrats, or immigrants, or members of the ladies' garden club.

You recommend that we not voice outrage because you don't approve of the victims? Wow.

It's an imperfect world, Ardis. If LDS voicing their outrage causes mainstream Christians to identify LDS with FLDS, then such action needs to be considered in a wider context. The FLDS are perfectly capable of articulating the injustice of their treatment to the mainstream media, which can publicize it without the complications that accompany LDS complaints. The FLDS are perfectly capable of reforming their community to eliminate the grossly unacceptable conduct that gave Texas CPS the grounds to start the whole mess.

I'm honestly shocked, Dave. Like Ardis said, we're outraged by the (apparent) gross violation of constitutional rights. I don't believe that we should let concerns over our self-image in the general public get in the way of helping these people.

The children have attorneys to speak for them in court. The mainstream media is actually giving a fairly balanced account of the whole affair. What exactly can we add? The sad truth is that, given the low opinion many people have of the LDS Church, LDS complaints about how the FLDS have been treated probably does them more harm than good.

Its like the whole last 25 years of Mormonism wrapped up in one post: PR trumps being a decent human being.

Here's an interesing editorial at the SL Trib (not exactly an LDS PR outlet) that raises some of the same issues. I think it is naive to pretend that you can bracket the confusion between LDS and FLDS from the voicing of LDS complaints about how Texas authorities have treated the FLDS.

Maybe a practical solution is to join criticism of the Texas actions with criticism of FLDS conduct ... for those who don't approve of FLDS conduct, that is.

Dave, I fear many of the children's attorneys view the children's "interests" through the lens of cultural imperialism.

It may not be enough that a particular child has not been abused and is not in any foreseeable danger of abuse. For many, a boy is abused if he doesn't have a Wii. A girl is abused if she won't wear long pants. Both are abused if they acknowledge (or were taught to acknowledge) the serious ills of our culture and choose, therefore, to withdraw from it and try to build something better.

It would be interesting to see the Texas ethical rules that a guardian ad-litem must follow. I doubt there's very much in there about respecting a child's cultural heritage (at least where non-Indian children are concerned).

JimD, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens tomorrow in court when the guardians ad litem get a chance to speak on behalf of the children. And equally interesting to see how the media spins it.

Not to belabor the point but the phone calls weren't anonymous. They may have been fraudulent (and there is starting to be circumstantial evidence that they were). But anonymous and fraudulence are two different things.

BTW - I do agree with your comments about a low profile. Some have demanded LDS condemnation of the FLDS and some have demanded LDS condemnation of Texas. I think Pres. Monson is doing the right thing by staying out of it. Besides which why should Mormons have some special duty to condemn them that say Baptists don't?

I dunno. I'd kind of like to see us pitching in a little more. I sort of have a nagging feeling that the FLDS, in some ways, are what we have made them. Had the (mostly LDS) Utah authorities not come down on them so hard in the last few decades, the FLDS culture might be more open to outsiders and the conditions that allowed any alleged abuse to continue unchecked might not exist.

I disagree. I just don't see how authorities coming down on the FLDS way back when had much to do with some of the things Warrens Jeffs did. From what I can see the guy is a crackpot. (You do know there is a lawsuit pending of him sodomizing several of his very young nephews, right?)

All I know is I was all set to start a letter campaign. I was going to target the Govenor of Texas, the ACLU and my Congressman to start. I absolutely, positively do NOT approve of 14 year-olds marrying their uncles or anything like unto it but I respect the right of adults to live and raise their children in accordance with their beliefs. It's hypocritical some of the response -- or, more specifically, the lack of response. If it's none of the government's business what two adult men do together, how is it anymore their business what one man and two (3, 4, whatever) adult women do?

But. That said, as I was praying about it I got the sense that while my willingness to defend these peoples' rights was appreciated, I was cautioned against taking that action.

So I wait and watch.

Clark -

There were similar accusations (if not lawsuits) against Gordon B. Hinckley back in the early 80s, I believe.

There was no lawsuit. There was a male prostitute brought forth by Ed Decker of Godmakers fame to make a claim but he never made the claim before a court or in a sworn affidavit. And, as I recall, he recanted.

In this case you have multiple nephews making this case in court. Quite different, wouldn't you say?


Dave, do you really think that "the mainstream media is actually giving a fairly balanced account of the whole affair"? That's hard for me to believe. From what I've read, watched, and heard, the coverage outside of the Trib and Des News has been anything but "fairly balanced," as the national media has joined the Texas authorities, CPS, and Baptist volunteers in TX (as JimD) suggested in advocating cultural imperialism to bring these unenlightened, backwards FLDS souls to modern-day respectability, complete with TV, toys, and pants for the girls.

Clark, I agree that Warren Jeffs is a crackpot. But I see no evidence that just because he sodomized his nephews that every other male FLDS adult has done the same to his own children/nephews. Your continually brining up WJ as the definition of FLDS seems like a weak argument.

The suggestion that they change their name is offensive to me. There are many denominations within the restoration that originated with Joseph Smith, and we, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, need to remember that we are not the only one, we just happen to be the biggest one. Each of these denominations has a unique historical perspective, but beyond that, if our Church is so intent on being able to call ourselves Christians despite the criticism we have received for doing so, we need to allow other churches the same freedom to name themselves instead of naming them. It is the same thing. The people who say "They're not really Christians, they believe that men can become gods." is very close to the same as "They're not really Latter-day Saints, they believe in polygamy." I say let everyone be who they want to be. We "created" the FLDS, in a sense. Were it not for our changes in doctrine, they would not exist. So we have to live with it. Any time a church changes doctrine there is a likelihood that it will fracture and create other denominations. Look at the United Church of God, the Worldwide Church of God, and the Radio Church of God. Look at the American Baptists and the Southern Baptists.

Even if people do think it is us, we should turn it into a missionary tool. "Aren't you that church that was in the news?" "I'm glad that you asked. Actually, they broke away from our Church in ..." and lead into an explanation of the differences.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Jeff: When did they come for the pseudo-poet types?

I kid, I kid.

Dave,

Ditto to Ardis, David G., and Christoper. And, especially to the notion that the MSM is providing anything close to balanced coverage. The CNN anchors and reporters can barely conceal (and they don't even do that well) their disdain for the FLDS members.

About the only balanced coverage I have seen is from the Tribune and the Deseret News

Everyone should be furious at this police state action. See
http://spirituallibertarian.blogspot.com/

Christopher I have never said that Warren Jeffs being a pedophile entails all men in the FLDS are. However when a person like that is put into a position of power such as he held in the FLDS and has been convicted for forcing young underage girls into marriages it suggests that he has been abusing his leadership to persuade people to engage in some questionable behaviors. Surely someone having the near absolute authority he held turning out to be a pedophile ought at a minimum raise some questions.

But I've never accused the rest of the FLDS of anything beyond underage marriages foisted upon young adolescents.


Ugh, I had to turn Nancy Grace off. Her biased reporting was making me too upset and I've got better things to do with my time than hear her misconstrue everything to do with this case.

Nice title, Dave, and a provocative post.

To hear the MSM talk, you'd think they were more horrified about the fact that these people wear "prairie dresses" and have no TV, than the rapes, and beatings.

I'm not calling for Pres. Monson to say anything more than he has already. But I have no problem with Mormon blogs who want to sound the alarm.

This group is WAY out there: Forced marriages. The policy of expelling teenage boys to provide more women to breed with their elders. The iron-fisted control. The avoidance of education. The movement of wives from one man to another by their leadership. The depriving of apostates of their homes. The obsessively-secret nature of the community. The sexual activities in their temple. Arguably, such places them beyond the fringe.

I've spent a little time in the border communities in northern Arizona and southern Utah. You can feel the oppression. The suppression free will. The fear of any outsider. The constrained, fearful attitudes. It is very unsettling. These are not just places where folks quietly practice their beliefs.

I've had the chance to visit the Amish and Mennonite communities in the East. Those places are totally different. Sure, they are conservative in dress and manner. But, I've never had the feeling that the people are trapped in the lifestyle. On the contrary, they are joyful in their traditions and open with outsiders. I remember very well haggling with an Amish women over a quilt. Absolutely delightful.

No, this is something different.

Much of the nation finds the FLDS behavior downright creepy. Is that truly unreasonable?

I suspect the church is terribly embarrassed by these folks. Some are suggesting that silence doesn't mean anything. I wonder. If members of the 12 or First Presidency thought the FLDS were being improperly treated with respect to Warren Jeffs, the court-appointed trustee for their property, and recent action don't you think they would voice something? I wonder if they secretly approve of what is occurring.

I also wonder if often we tend to feel unduly sorry for the state of the FLDS because of our historical ties. Maybe, just maybe, this is the time to step back and allow them to feel the full weight of public opinion and governmental scrutiny.

I think a potentially valid argument can be made that an FLDS community is not appropriate for anyone under 18. Let adults engage in whatever they choose. But, children may deserve something better than these communities.

Interesting remarks, Steve. I'm not sure a few bad FLDS families gives a basis for depriving all FLDS of the right to raise their kids, anymore than a few bad American or secular or Christian families justifies a similar leap against ALL American or secular or Christian families.

Sounds like there has been some noise in the Utah media suggesting senior LDS leaders should make a statement about the FLDS situation. I'm not in that loop, but I think I the last sentence of the original post works for LDS leaders as well as LDS bloggers and pundits: IMHO, Mormons should just keep a low profile and let the active participants self-destruct.

Dave,

The key question is whether the FLDS environment is abhorrent or acceptable. If the first, then removal is justified. If not, then it is not.

I know this view is controversial. It seems a justification of what happened at Short Creek and the current removals. But, I am becoming increasingly disturbed the more info that flows out about the FLDS lifestyle.

Yesterday, several FLDS wives went into the media. I found those interviews almost spooky. On Fox News I heard three refuse to deny that underage women were being forced into marriages. They looked like they had been ordered to go on and talk about children. Quiet. Odd. I found it unnerving, not sympathetic.

We all are sensitive to religious liberty. But, does the FLDS lifestyle fly beyond the edge of acceptability?

Unfortunately, Steve, trying to give definable legal substance to the concept "unacceptable lifestyle" to the extent it would deprive people of the custody of their children is a tricky undertaking. It takes more than mere membership in a denomination or just living in a certain community to do that sort of thing. FLDS individuals don't, by virtue of their FLDS affiliation, cede their legal rights as individuals. Let's see what Texas brings to court today.

People magazine called them "a renegade Mormon cult" in their latest publication.

Three of the mothers were on Good Morning America yesterday and frankly, one of them seemed retarded. They all seemed like robots with soft voices saying the same thing over and over again. It was revolting and I thought, did them a disservice as they call for civil rights. If that's the best they've got, perhaps those children need better.

They have enough money to hire competent lawyers and public relations firms. That's what I would do at this point.

I frankly don't care if it was a community full of homosexual druids, the fact of the matter is that children were forcefully removed from their parents without due process of law or even adequate evidence justifying such an immediate removal of such a mass of children!
As a father of three children and as a decent human being, I AM OUTRAGED by this broad and over use of power and breech of basic human rights.

man, Dave, you start coming down on Fundamentalists and look at the number of comments you provoke. :)

I am one of those fundamentalists who can't stand polygamy. Every time one sees it in the Bible, there is a huge mess of heartache on all accounts.

Last night, we had a prayer time . . . praying for the Texas government, lawyers, and judges (biblical responsibility to pray for them), and then all these mothers and little children (biblical responsibility to pray for them as well).

Prayer time in the church congregation, actually.

Most places polygamy appears in the bible, it is mundane, unremarkable background. There is a mess of heartache with Abraham and Jacob, but then again there was also with Isaac and with the family Adam. It seems to be the Genesis family way. A great number of wives seems to be characteristic of the unrighteous, ego-inflated, tax-sucking kings, yet Jezebel was the only woman Ahab needed. I find what we see of Hannah and Elkanah's marriage rather touching.

John, how many times have you heard this message topic: "Faith of our Fathers".

I feel for Hannah (and the other wife).

To be more accurately biblical, let's make this the message topic: "Faults of our Fathers."

Amen, Kelton! Although it may have been too taxing for Texas to think of more subtle ways to handle the FLDS group, the only route that could've been worse than the one they've chosen would be if they started shooting people.

And of course as an LDS person I should speak out about this. I'm not them, I don't even really understand them, but that should not bar compassion or a sense of justice.

Reading the BoM with my kids this morning we hit this passage: "And now the design of the Nephites was to support heir lands, and their houses, and their wives and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their rights, and their privileges, yea and also their liberty, that they might worship God according to their desires. For they knew that if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites, that whosoever should worship God in spirit and in truth, the true and the living God, the Lamanites would destroy."(Alma, 43:9-10). With this as part of our shared scriptural heritage, how can I not speak out on their behalf? Do you believe that they can "worship how, where or what they may"?

Abuse I don't approve of. I think the practice of underage marriage is ill-conceived, especially when they could avoid a lot of problems if they just dropped it. But whatever the inherent problems may exist on the ranch, the government's action have only served to make the lived of the people there much worse.

Dave:

I understand your impulse and it is the same reason that I honest believe that FLDS people would be better off as Baptists than as FLDS (which I obviously do not believe about LDS).

But I think Latter-day Saints need to raise their voice against the approach Texas has taken here and on the side of the Constitution and due process of law precisely because of our history. When reading our history, I am always profoundly grateful when I come across the odd non-Mormon figure who despite not sharing our religious beliefs (and in fact likely despite being utterly repulsed by them) nevertheless stood up for us even if only a little bit and demanded fair treatment during the rough days when LDS families were being broken apart and driven out of their homes.

Objecting to what Texas is doing should in no way imply approval of underaged marriage, child abuse of any kind, or even polygamy or bigamy.

I'm with you, john f. Like I said when I first jumped into this issue, there are no winners here -- the FLDS as a group are not sympathetic parties. Had Texas just removed the children of a household for which they had reasonable evidence of actual or threatened abuse, there would be no debate. After all, bloggers aren't leaping up to defend Warren Jeffs or argue that he was targeted for his religious beliefs.

Let's hope the judge stands by her statement that it is individuals that are before the court, not the FLDS Church. I assume this means the judge will look for evidence of individual conduct to affirm the right of CPS to remove specific individual children, but very little of the CPS testimony seems to relate to individuals, so it's hard to see what the judge is going to base individual determinations on.

Great Post Dave! I think it's a very thought-provoking blog. I even learned a few things like the difference between a LDS, RLDS and FLDS... From the outside looking in - I personally think that using their proper and perspective names instead of initials or nicknames would cause a lot less confusion :-) Are there any other 'formal names' other than "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" and the "Community of Christ" who also include the 'Book of Mormon' as a regular part of their scripture study - that you (or anyone else) know(s) of?

Lizbeth, you can see a very long list of the smaller denominations related to Mormonism at this site.

Ah, the anti-Mormons display their true colors yet again (Well, not quite... To do that would mean violence and hate crimes, like they really want to do). Maybe they should look in the mirror. It's people like them who make speaking out against how the situation in Texas was handled so risky for those of us who are LDS. "Bad PR" doesn't just mean our church gets looked at badly. It means that we get treated like second-class citizens. Kids get treated as a pariah when their teachers find out they're LDS. It's an overall culture of intolerance, and gets worse progressively, with each group competing for more victimization status, which would be better than the fear and hatred status they usually enjoy (including African Americans, women, Muslims, Jews, and other marginalized groups).

Other Christians criticize us on the basis of their own beliefs, and that's at least sincere. I don't expect them to change their beliefs without changing religions entirely. What's ugly is when people try to justify all those feelings of fear and hatred by showcasing the misdeeds of the members of whatever organization or demographic group. I can just see all the usual flames coming in about priesthood privileges and massacres on Native Americans, as if no one but "the Mormons" ever did those things. Jim Crow laws stayed alive because people figured "they couldn't take care of themselves because of biological inferiority." Women get stomped on because they mistreat a couple of guys. It's all bull.

Oh, and why should we trust the media to interpret what we say as we really mean it anyway? Their track record is mud as well, with few exceptions. Let's not let sensationalism trump truth. All that said, I think the U. S. is a really egalitarian country. I'm glad the people who really want to act on their naughty desires to hurt people who aren't like them are hesitant to do so, fearing legal consequences, because we're making progress, even if some of the posts on here would obscure that fact.

Aaron, I'm not so sure it's the same old battle lines here.

There's a lot of worry about these events among homeschoolers and the homeschooling movement has a BIG evangelical faction.

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