Quick Look at the FLDS
This brief overview of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) will help you ‘place’ the group in the religious landscape.
- Theologically the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is one of many polygamist sects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, commonly known as the Mormon Church)
- Collectively these sects or splinter groups and their members are referred to as Mormon Fundamentalists. This is to distinguish their doctrines and practices from those of mainstream Mormonism.
- In turn, theologically both the Mormon Church and its sects are considered cults of Christianity. This term is used of a group, church or organization whose central teachings and/or practices are claimed to be biblical or representative of biblical Christianity, but which are in fact unbiblical and not Christian in nature.
- Mormon fundamentalist groups came into existence when the Mormon Church was forced to renounce polygamy – till then one of its key doctrines. Polygamy, referred to as “The Principle,” is a key doctrine taught and practised by these groups.
Like mainstream Mormons, Mormon Fundamentalists believe in continuing revelation; but unlike the LDS, fundamentalists do not believe new revelation supersedes or negates earlier revelation.
As a result, for the most part the doctrines and practices of Mormon Fundamentalists are closer to those of the original Mormon Church than are the doctrines and practices of today’s LDS Church.
- The best known Mormon Fundamentalist offshoot is the FLDS. Over the past few decades this group has gained notoriety for the crimes committed by — and under the leadership — of Warren Jeffs.
While the fast majority of polygamous sects of the Mormon Church are not thought to be involved in criminal acts, under Jeffs’ leadership the FLDS has been accused of — among other things — arranging forced marriages — including underage marriages; human trafficking; child abuse; child labor, food stamp fraud and other crimes — including discrimination against non-members and intimidation of ex-members.
When male members were kicked out of the sect, Jeffs ‘reassigned’ their wives and children to other members. Hundreds of young men have been excommunicated or pressured to leave the FLDS in order to assure that male members — many of whom already have up to several dozen wives — have enough additional woman and girls to chose from.
Authorities have long known about some (not all) of the cult’s controversial practices, but have been reluctant to act due to a warped understanding of ‘religious freedom.’
However, after Jeffs started ousting a large number of key members of his church — including four of his brothers — the FLDS came under increasing scrutiny, first from the media and then from authorities.
- The beliefs and practices of the FLDS identify it not just as theologically a cult of Mormonism, but also sociologically as a destructive cult.
- In April, 2008, Texas authorities raided the cult’s ‘Yearning For Zion’ ranch and took 400 children into protective custody after a phone call to a domestic abuse hotline — later determined to have been a hoax — in which the caller claimed she was abused.
Evidence seized during the raid was used to indict and convict 12 men — including the cult’s leader, Warren Jeffs — for crimes including child sexual assault, bigamy and performing an illegal marriage.
In August 2011, a Texas jury convicted Warren Jeffs of child sexual assault in a case stemming from two young followers he took as brides in what the FLDS calls “spiritual marriages.” The cult leader was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
The cult’s ranch — one of its many properties in several US states and abroad — was seized.
- Though imprisoned, Jeffs continues to rule his followers with an iron fist. His edicts are enforced by his brothers and other FLDS leaders.
- In February 2016 eleven FLDS members were taken into custody on charges of food stamp fraud.
Observers believe the expected outcome of the trial will seriously damage the group’s financial health, as well as further erode the cult’s ability to operate as usual.
Background information about the FLDS is found in this older entry.
There you will also find a collection of research resources on the FLDS.
Additional research resources on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are posted here.