Sunday, April 20, 2008

The FLDS Raids and the LDS Church

Unless you are someone who's life revolves around the latest Britney Spears/Paris Hilton/Miley Cyrus paparazzi up-skirt moment, you probably have heard of the FLDS raid in Texas where over 400 children were removed from their parents and placed in state custody. As a member of the LDS Church and having lots of polygamist ancestors on my sainted mother's side, I look at this with a bit of interest.

In 1890, then president and prophet of the LDS Church, Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto ending the practice of polygamy in the LDS Church. At that time, the LDS Church was undergoing it's share of government-sponsored attacks on the practice of polygamy and President Woodruff, after being shown by the Lord how the LDS Church would cease to exist (it would have made the presecutions suffered during the early history of the church look like a Sunday picnic) if the LDS Church continued the practice, issued the Manifesto which stated that the LDS Church would no longer perform polygamist marriages. Those polygamist marriages which had been performed up to that time would not be affected, by no new polygamist marriages would be performed and the practice would die out with those marriages.

Fast forward to today. Comparing the FLDS and LDS churches, it is easy to what the practice of polygamy did to both churches. After the LDS Church ended the practice of polygamy, the state of Utah was organised in 1896 and the LDS Church has gone on to become a worldwide church and force for good. Many people's lives are blessed, both member and non-member, by the churches efforts in the world. The FLDS church, on the other hand, is still a small, regional church that shuns most contact with the outside world. Although it practiced polygamy, it was so small that it was easier to ignore the church than spend the time and money bothering them. However, it was only a matter of time before the government decided that something had to be done and we are witness to what happened in Texas.

At one time, what we would consider underage marriages were the norm. How many years ago this was, I'm not sure of, but from my family history, I am not aware of any marriages that were performed under the age of 18. The reason for this was that to be sealed in the temple, both the wife and the husband needed to be at least 18 years of age. If I'm mistaken about this, I'm sure the Cap'n will let me know. Unfortunately, for the FLDS church, societal norms changed and what was acceptable many years ago is now against the law.

If the LDS Church had continued the practice of polygamy, I am sure that the church would have either been completely destroyed or would have gone underground and left the United States by the early 1900's. However, as it has been often said, you can win the battle but still loose the war, this may turn into a Pyrrhic victory for the government. The anti-polygamy laws of the 1800's were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, but with today's emphasis on right to privacy and freedom of religion, this may turn out to work in the FLDS favor. I can see the Supreme Court upholding laws against underage marriages, but striking down all anti-polygamy laws as against the freedom of religion. The FLDS Church could still be polygamist but all they would have to do is not violate the underage marriage laws and with 16 being the age that minors can marry in most states, there would not be all that big of a change in the way that the FLDS Church does things. The only question would be: What would the LDS Church do then? Would it again start practicing polygamy? Only the Lord knows the answer to that.

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