In which I ponder the nature of existence…

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.

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8 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    This is an interesting question for Mormonism since on the one hand they don’t want the polygamists included in the category of “Mormon” (thus tainting it), yet at the same time they complain when Christians want to exclude Mormons from the category of “Christian.”

    It’s interesting — as you note — that they share many of the same hymns. When I was interviewing a guy who was raised FLDS (for my novel), I asked him about shared hymns, and he mentioned “We Thank Thee oh God for a Prophet.” This was before a lot of the scandal with Warren Jeffs, but it’s interesting to note that while some kids are singing this song and thinking of Gordon B. Hinkley, there are others who are singing it (just as gratefully) about Warren Jeffs…..

  2. Hellmut says:

    Yes, and the Grantite faction suffers from similar attacks by Christianists who would like to deny the Christian label from us.

    The Marxist Antonio Gramsci wrote about the importance of words. Whoever has the ability to define the terminology will win every subsequent conflict. Even if you loose, you loose on your terms and how bad can that be?

    By the way, the neocons all read and apply Gramsci, even though he was a Marxist. I guess that is not too surprising given that the earliest neocons where Trokyites from the Brooklyn.

  3. Phoebe says:

    Yes, the neocons love wordsmithing. They know that “war on terror” would win more votes than “war on Iraq.” They knew that “climate change” was less alarming than “global warming.”

    By the same token, LDS wordsmithers want us to think that “family” and “family values” should never include homosexuals. And every time a church policy gets called homophobic, a church spokesperson will dance around that word, throwing every euphemism at it he can to distract us from thinking that the church supports hate doctrine.

    It works on people who don’t want to think further than the “word,” and it inflames people who know what the “word” is hiding.

    She/he who has the power to name or define something, has the power.

  4. aerin says:

    chanson – thanks – it does seem very odd. That section of your novel was very interesting – specifically the idea of one part of an extended family (mainstream LDS) denying the other part of the extended family (Fundamentalist LDS) even existed – or at least refused to associate with them.

    Hellmut – I’m not familiar with the Grantite faction?

    I don’t know if I should find it reassuring that the neocons pick and choose which ideas to follow.

    Phoebe – that’s precisely what I’m talking about. I think more and more people realize what exactly is being referred to as “family values”. I can only hope that particularly with the ’08 election – some LDS values will be in the spotlight.

  5. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    As I read this and appreciate the thread…
    This come over NPR:

    Purely a coincidence, ‘I’m SURE’

    Will Mormonism survive the www, more critical/thinking & inquiry, if not greater ‘sophistication’ in the (US) population?
    Skeptics are telling us that conversions to LDS are stagnant, may be declining in attendance… It seems (if u believe this) Church hopes for growth/survival are being pegged to member births (BIC).

    I loved the msg about naming; IMHO, mormons tend to be overly specific & legalistic.

  6. Hellmut says:

    The Grantites are today’s LDS Church. First the Brighamites left for Utah. The Brighamites then split into polygamists and pragmatic monogamists. The latter were led by Heber Grant, hence the Grantites.

  7. Guy Noir Private Eye says:


    I beg to differ.
    LDS today = ‘the Hinckleyites’
    aka ‘the Gord Squad’

  1. October 1, 2009

    […] The structure of our discussion was enlightening. The number one question that everyone had was the difference between the fundamentalist LDS and the mainstream SLC LDS. Sometimes this is a question that I share. I talk a little about my questions in my MSP post here. […]

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