Watching a special about Christopher Columbus a few weeks ago, I was struck by the importance of names. What a place is named – who decides what something gets to be named. In Christopher Columbus’ case, he renamed places that already had names – giving them European names. Some of the places/Caribbean Islands still carry those names. Or the fact that this continent is called America instead of Columbia. It could (so easily) have been named something else.
The current debate over calling the country “Burma” vs. “Myanmar” seems very similar to me. Who gets to decide which name is the valid name for that country? Is it the people themselves? We (ie. the US) obviously disagreed with the founding and philosphy of the Soviet Union, but we accepted the name that government had chosen for themselves. But if a renegade group within a country decides to rename that country, do we recognize that name? Or continue to call them the name left over from colonial/imperial rule?
Which brings me to mormonism (because, in the end, doesn’t everything bring me back to mormonism)?
LDS, Inc. is very conscious and aware of how it is referred to in the media. I was raised Mormon, and that’s what I considered myself. Yet if one wants to be respectful, it’s important to call a person or organization the name they want to be called. It’s just politeness.
Within this consciousness, LDS Inc. is very quick to point out that there is no such thing as fundamentalist mormons or mormon fundamentalist. In the numerous press releases, they say specifically that fundamentalist mormons do not exist.
It’s a little like standing in front of a car accident you were just involved in, closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “la, la, la – this never happened”. Because, in reality, when you open your eyes (which eventually you will have to do) – your car was still involved in a crash. It’s still damaged and you have to deal with the fallout.
Existence isn’t dependent on convenience or hope.
I know my sixth grade English teacher would have a field day with this sentence – but just because you don’t want something to exist, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Now clarifying that fundamentalist mormons are not affliated with the larger, well-known Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that’s acceptable to me. Because they are not – and I suspect even those groups would admit that. Clarifying the position (whether or not it’s 100% accurate) that LDS/Mormons involved in polygamy are excommunicated is fine.
But what the public relations spokespeople never bring up is that these sects still believe in many of the same prophets/revelation as the original church. They have many of the same sacred texts, including the book of mormon and doctrine and covenants. They even sing many of the same hymns in their Sunday services.
So denying that these groups are a sect of mormonism is out of touch with reality. They are organized. I bet they have websites. I bet they get the same non profit religious tax exemption that the LDS church does. They just don’t have the same leadership.