It sure is a good thing they changed that Temple Recommend Question--you know the one I'm talking about: Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? They used to ask you if you sympathized with such groups, and I always had to answer "yes." (Never kept me from getting my recommend, btw.)
I do sympathize with fundamentalist groups, now let me tell you why.
- Joseph Smith and the early leaders of the Church taught the doctrine of plural marriage, which they called "celestial marriage." When we read certain passages in the D&C discussing the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we should understand that this was referring to plural marriage. Thus members of the early Church were taught that in order to enter into the highest degree of celestial glory, they must live "The Principle."
- I've always felt a warm spot in my heart for those who wish to separate themselves from "the world." I often wondered if I had not joined the Church, if I might not have gone to live on "The Farm," a commune in Tennessee; or a kibbutz in Israel.
- Within the fundamentalist groups I have seen a religious fervor and zeal which I admire and imagine existed in the early LDS Church. Those who stand up for their beliefs against great persecution are admirable. The Prophet Joseph taught that "a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation."
Now, don't get me wrong! I believe in a living prophet today, and I follow the standard Mormon teachings on this subject. But that doesn't stop me from understanding where fundamentalist Mormons are coming from, and sympathizing with their position.
That's why I've followed with interest the building of the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) compound in Eldorado, Texas. (Pics here.) Even the name of the place breaks my heart. It's taken from a song written by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. I am disposed to believe that this is a group of people who yearns for Zion. They are willing to put their earthly lives and interests on the line for their religious beliefs. One member writes:
"I wonder why people think Plural Marriage is a sin. I know for myself that it is a correct principle and must be lived to attain the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom. I also know that most people I have known that enter the principle, do not live it correctly. So it is not for everyone. So why is it so bad to some people, for a man to claim two women as wives, take care of them and treat them as wives in every sense of the word, and for some reason it is not quite as bad for a man to have a wife and a mistress? Or is it? To me, THAT is awful."
And another polygamist muses:
"I don't know of a better reason, to live it, than that it is a commandment of God. If is was not a commandment of God, and that was my desire (to keep the commandments of God) then I am sure I would not choose to. I believe that every person must live according to the light and knowlege they have, in order to come to God at the Judgment day and have no regrets."
This morning I read the news reports that 137 children were removed from the compound by Texas Child Protective Services in an effort to determine if they are "at risk." 46 women were also bused from the compound and are being cared for by local churches. The operation came in response to claims that a 16-year-old girl had been abused. The Deseret News has reported that a 16-year-old girl who lives on the compound called Child Protective Services on Monday to report the incident. Some accounts identify her with a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry 50-year-old Dale Barlow. Records show that she bore a child 8 months ago, at age 15. Dale Barlow is in Arizona, according to his probation officer, and he claims he doesn't know who made the report. Nobody can say who the girl is that reported abuse, and they have yet to find her. Teams are now searching the compound for this girl. Reports indicated that the SWAT team has entered the YFZ Temple under protest from FLDS faithful. I am so sorry to hear about this situation. It is a tense one for all involved.
These marriages between older men and young women certainly merit concern. But, as when I am answering the Temple Recommend questions, my sympathies are aroused. As Latter-Day Saints, we pressure our 8-year-old children to enter an important covenant. I myself have indoctrinated my children to do this because of my firm belief in certain religious precepts. My stay in the country of Saudi Arabia has acquainted me with girls who have been pressured into arranged marriages to older men. Some of the girls I teach in the university are under 21 years of age and have children 4 and 5 years old. They proudly show me their children's pictures on their cell phones. This is a cultural practice I disagree with, but it is not unlike that practiced by the FLDS. Some of you who have visited my blog have taken issue with those who would "export our values and culture to places that already have their own."
As you read the rant of an anonymous FLDS member you can see how they feel about 137 of their small children being removed from their homes:
"You have been fed a steady diet of bull puckey for long enough, why don't you try something else, your taste buds would enjoy it I'm sure. A strong mind is one that thinks for itself, not believes every malcontent filthy liar and every bit of media spin. Nobody, and I mean nobody is being raped!! I promise you that the 6 month old babies aren't being raped. I know of one 14 year old marriage, but in general the girls are older than that, you can keep bringing that up for your purpose of sensationalism as long as you'd like, it still doesn't make it the truth. I also know that every person is given a choice or asked if they are willing, they are not forced into the marriages, and you can go ahead and give us your drivel about brainwashing all you want to, I know I've been there, I wasn't brain washed, I loved what I lived... I made a choice, I was asked and I made that choice, so you will say I was brainwashed. Hogwash. Free will and choice, and a beautiful choice at that, I would way rather be married to a wonderful man that has matured and mellowed, than a young know it all buck... The people of the United States are the ones who are brain washed, with all the TV, sports... Only the Lord God of Heaven has the right to judge us, you don't and I don't have the right to judge you. The United States of America is supposed to be where you can practice what you believe..."
What do you think? If you truly believed it would help her gain celestial glory, would you encourage your 15-year-old daughter to marry an older man? Did your LDS forebears do this very thing? What about our revered Prophets of the Latter days?