Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs Compared
On August 29, 2006, Warren Steed Jeffs, prophet of the FLDS Church, was arrested just outside of Las Vegas after being pulled over on a routine traffic stop by the Nevada Highway Patrol. He had been on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List since May.
I don’t know how many times since I heard the above news that I have stopped to wonder what must be going through the minds of the followers of the FLDS Church, headquartered on the border of southern Utah and northern Arizona.
It must be a busy time there with the families having emergency meetings to discuss what their next move should be. I am certain they will wait to hear for direction from their prophet, but my thoughts go more towards those who will begin questioning God today because of the actions of their leader. Odds are, the members who are wondering about God wouldn’t dare to audibly express their questioning mind. And those who don’t doubt God will see this as more persecution from the “outside”.
To give you some idea of how this community “came to be” we need to take a quick look back in time. In 1928 polygamists first moved to Colorado City, AZ (originally called Short Creek) for the sake of privacy; by that time polygamy had been federally outlawed for almost 40 years by the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1890, so their practice of multiple wives went on behind closed doors. With a difference of opinions, the leaders split the group and established the “sister” community of Hildale, UT in 1958.
Most reports say the group has 10,000 members now, but previous claims in the past few years have gone as high as 30-50,000. They have had various leaders throughout the last hundred years; Jeffs is just the latest of more than a handful the FLDS has seen.
The members of the FLDS hold a deep devotion for their leader, believing that he has been sent by God to speak for him. They literally believe that whatever and whenever he speaks; it is gospel. If you’ve had a chance to watch the news reports of the people living at the compounds you will have seen and heard their devotion to the “latter-day prophet”.
The FLDS believes to this day that the mainstream Mormon Church, (headquartered in Salt Lake City), has forsaken the true teachings of the “Restored Gospel” that was delivered to Joseph Smith more than 175 years ago. Their experiences of love and adoration are the same for Jeffs as they are for their founding father, Joseph Smith. They are totally convinced the revelation to practice polygamy (D&C 132) was instituted of God and a necessary work to obtain salvation.
While they may look different to us on the “outside”, they believe they are living their religion and trying to be as pure as they possibly can to please their god. If you have any experience with the doctrines of LDS theology, you would probably agree with me that the FLDS Church is actually living a “purer” form of Mormonism than their counterparts in Salt Lake City. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t agree with anything they teach! Their understanding of Deity, the Bible and continued revelation are polar opposites of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs!
In light of the advent of Jeffs arrest and publicity, I thought it would be a good idea for some reflection of past and present prophets in the LDS Church and its “subsidiaries”.
Generally, the majority of Mormons that I’ve spoken with about Jeffs and the FLDS say they hope he is brought in and prosecuted for the crimes that he’s been accused of in Utah and Arizona. They believe that sexual crimes against a child are abhorrent and the perpetrator needs to be held accountable for the sake of the children. When I ask if they believe he should be charged with breaking the Edmunds-Tucker Act, they will reply with a resounding yes!
When asked why they don’t have D&C 132 removed from their writings since they don’t practice polygamy anymore, some members tell me it will be in effect when we get to heaven; meaning the teaching is still true even though man would not honor it as such.
Others tell me that if they remove it then they would have to “gut” the majority of their written teachings. Let’s pray the Lord will open their eyes to the realization of what they’ve said! None of them would ever admit that it (polygamy) is not from God; nor would any member of the Church openly admit what Joseph Smith did back in the 1830’s was wrong. I’ve been told “times were different back then”, or “there were 5 women to every one man back then”.
You will hear a different opinion for each person you ask about the polygamy issue; but the common denominator between all the responses I’ve received from church members is what disturbs me the most. “It was ordained of God and it was okay for Smith to practice plural marriage in the nineteenth century”. Fast forward to the twenty first century and you’ll hear that Jeffs is an outlaw and should be arrested. That’s quite the double standard! This situation reminds me a lot of my own family.
I’ve spoken before and shared with everyone that Butch Cassidy is my great-great-great uncle. While growing up I had the opportunity to meet his sister Lulu a few times when my grandmother would drive us down for a rare visit. Now whenever I’ve shared this little piece of family history with others, I receive a wide-eyed excited reaction more times than not. It’s as if Butch Cassidy went from being the thug that he really was a hundred years ago, to some larger than life folk hero. People generally don’t see past the blue eyes of Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s depiction of the sordid ways of the “Wild Bunch”.
Well, he may have lived in a time that we only read about now in history books or see in the movies, but his crimes were real. He really robbed banks at gun point, he really blew up trains, and he really killed and hurt people. How glamorous is he now?
It’s the same thing with Smith and Jeffs. Smith really burned down a printing press; he really took wives unto himself when he was already married to Emma; he really declared Martial Law in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois; he really did declare himself Lieutenant Governor, mayor and city council president; and he really had been charged in New York with being a disorderly person and an imposter in 1826; court papers documenting charges filed against him for assault and battery in 1835, and on it goes.
If Smith were around today would you believe his message? What if your daughter came home from school one day and said; “Guess what, I heard a man speak at campus today about God. He said that God and Jesus appeared to him and told him I should be his fifth wife…” Wouldn’t you be the least bit concerned? If it were one of my daughters I’d be locking my doors.
~Why is it okay for Smith to practice polygamy but not Jeffs?
~Why is it okay for the Church to leave the teachings of D&C 132 in their writings if they don’t believe in it anymore?
~Jeffs is accused of arranging marriages of young girls to much older men who are practicing polygamy. This is obviously against the law; however, Joseph Smith did the same thing.
~Jeffs was also accused of unlawful flight from the police. Smith went from Palmyra, to Missouri, then Ohio and to Nauvoo. After Smith’s death the church then fled to Utah after being “persecuted” by the town.
To reiterate my point to all this; what is the difference between what Jeffs has done in 2006 and what Smith did in the 1800’s? The Church is always telling its members to live their religion and to obey so that they will go to heaven. Seems to me Jeffs was just “living his religion”. According to D&C 132:4 it says you’ll be damned if you don’t obey. “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
Bruce McConkie said this in Mormon Doctrine, pg. 118; “Celestial marriage is a holy and an eternal ordinance; as an order of the priesthood, it has the name the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Adam was the first one on this earth to enter into this type of union, and it has been the Lord’s order in all ages when the fulness of the gospel has been on earth.”
Whenever I receive e-mails or calls from Mormons they always make sure to tell me that they do good works for the Lord and proof of their “Christianity” are their good works – they will then quote Matthew 7:20 which says “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
My answer to that is “you’re absolutely right!” Take a good long look at Warren Jeffs, the product of Joseph Smith’s “righteous” god. The people that lived 175 years ago didn’t like the things the LDS Church stood for anymore than we do today.
I know that if you’re a Mormon reading this, you’re probably insulted. For this I can honestly say I wish it weren’t that way. I know it’s offensive when you feel that you are the doctrines of Mormonism. I can also tell you that we don’t publish these articles or bring to light “news” of the Church to bash you with it, or to antagonize. It has never been my intention, nor will it ever be that way for us here at Life After Ministries. We do however, want to encourage you to pick up the references we quote to take a look for yourself and know we are always in prayer for you!
With Love in Christ;
1 Cor. 1:18