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Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

FLDS Intro: Terminology,
Overview, & Organization

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There are approximately 100 faith groups in the U.S. that consider themselves to be the true spiritual descendents from Joseph Smith's original church founded in 1830: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are often referred to as part of the LDS Restorationist movement. Many of the denominations regard themselves as the only "true" successor to Joseph Smith's church. Two high-profile denominations are:

bulletThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the LDS Church, the Mormon church) is by far the largest denomination in the LDS Restorationist movement. They regard themselves as the only true spiritual descendent from Smith's original church. They consider the term "Fundamentalist Mormon" as a contradiction in terms, since they don't regard themselves as Fundamentalist, and they don't acknowledge any other Restorationist denominations to be truly Mormon.
bulletThe Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) also considers their group to be the only true descendent from Smith's original church. They refer to themselves as the "Original Mormons" or "Fundamentalist Mormons." 1

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Prior to the year 1890, plural marriages in which one male Mormon married multiple wives was a treasured component of the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). That year, the fourth president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto which suspended the solemnization of Mormon plural marriages for an indefinite interval. This resulted from what Mormons believe was a revelation from God that became known as the "Great Accommodation." Utah was admitted as a state shortly thereafter.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) was formed in 1935 by two polygynist Mormons who had been excommunicated by the LDS. (Polygyny is one variety of polygamy in which one man marries more than one woman.) The group was, and remains, committed to plural marriages as a foundational teaching of their founder Joseph Smith.

There are an estimated 6,000 to 11,000 thousand members of the FLDS in the U.S. The group also has a single colony of about 1,000 members in Canada. Together, they form a significant percentage of the estimated 30,000 Mormon polygynists in Utah, and the estimated 60,000 in the U.S. 2

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About the FLDS organization:

The FLDS was founded in 1935 by two ex-LDS Mormons: John Y. Barlow and Joseph White Musser. Barlow subsequently became the group's first leader. Roulon T Jeffs suceeded him. When Roulton Jeffs died in 2002 at the age of 92, his son, Warren Jeffs, (1956 -) took over control. Warren was previously the principal of Alta Academy, a FLDS religious high school which is now closed. 3

The FLDS' U.S. organization is centered in the twin cities of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT.

Wikipedia reports that:

"According to FLDS accounts, Brigham Young visited the site of Hildale and Colorado City and stated that 'this is the right place [and it] will someday be the head and not the tail of the church [and]...the granaries of the Saints'." 4

In 2004-MAY, the FLDS announced that a new base for the church would be established at their YFZ (Yearning for Zion) ranch in Schleiser County, TX, about four miles northeast of Eldorado. By 2008, they had erected 35 buildings on the ranch, including a large temple. The state of Texas has no history of widespread polygyny and marriage of child brides as does Utah. This may have contributed to their decision to seize 416 children at the ranch during 2008-APR. 3

A separate colony of about 1,000 FLDS members live in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada. There has been a high level of inbreeding in that group; almost everyone in that colony are descendents of six men.

Unfortunately there is little precise information about the FLDS available to outsiders. By all accounts, the FLDS is run as a dictatorship under Jeffs and has not given interviews to non-FLDS members. He allegedly even refused a request to meet with Mark Surtleff, the Attorney General of Utah. As a result, most of the information comes from critics of the FLDS or from ex-FLDS members who have left the group. These can be unreliable sources.

Jeffs had allegedly:

bulletForbidden members to use television sets, VCRs, video games or to have connections to the Internet.
bulletBanned boating, fishing and other water activities.
bulletInstructed parents to throw away most children's books including the Bible and Book of Mormon storybooks.
bulletTerminated community and holiday celebrations, such as observing the birthdays of previous leaders and Pioneer Day.
bulletStopped dances, socials and other get-togethers.
bulletWarned members that laughter causes the spirit of God to leak from their bodies. He based this belief on an obscure statement by Joseph Smith.
bulletExpelled many men and reassigned their wives and children to other men.
bulletExpelled large numbers of teenage boys from his areas of control in order to artificially increase the ratio of females to males. Only by discharging young males does polygyny become possible.

After his conviction for sex crimes involving under-aged females, he received two lengthy jail sentences. Wendell Nielsen, 69, is now president of the FLDS and of the corporate entity that handles the faith’s business activity. The status of Jeffs is being kept secret. Some commentators have speculated that he may remain the FLDS prophet. 5

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Suzan Mazur, "Seven brides for one brother: Plural marriage is rife in the western United States," Financial Times, 2000, at: http://www.childpro.org/
  2. "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Adherents, at: http://www.adherents.com/
  3. Brooke Adams, "Thou Shalt Obey," Salt Lake Tribune, 2004-MAR-14, in the archives at: http://www.sltrib.com  Reprinted by RelgionNewsBlog at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/
  4. "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. "FLDS has new president..." Religion News Blog, 2010-FEB-07, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com

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Site navigation:

 Home > Christianity > Faith groupsFLDS > here

Home > Christianity > Denominational families > LDS RestorationismFLDS > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Marriage > PolygamyFLDS > here

Home > Religious info > Basic info > Religious practices > Marriage > PolygamyFLDS > here

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Copyright 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JUL-25
Latest update: 2010-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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