‘The Primer’ helps decipher the world of polygamy

Do you know what an “other mother” is? Or what it means to “keep sweet?”

These terms and more are explained in “The Primer,” a book on fundamentalist Mormonism that basically is “everything you ever wanted to know about polygamy, but were afraid to ask,” reports Utah’s FOX 13:

The Primer” is now being published by the Family Support Center, which administers the Safety Net Committee, a coalition of government agencies, social service providers and members of polygamous communities with a common goal of reaching into and providing help to closed societies.

The book was created by the Utah and Arizona Attorney General’s Offices to help government officials and social workers understand the terms and customs unique to polygamous culture. […]

“It covers everything,” said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and member of the Safety Net Committee.

“It covers religious doctrine, it covers slang. It covers terms that are offensive to polygamists and so if you use those terms, you may not be able to actually offer services because you’ve made the person mad.”

The manual has a dual role, educating agency workers about how to deal with members of the culture and letting plural wives know the government is willing to help them with benefits and other services, said Anne Wilde when the guide was first published in January 2005. Wilde is a widowed plural wife and member of Principle Voices of Polygamy, a Utah group that represents polygamous families.

Mormon fundamentalist groups came into existence when the Mormon Church was forced to renounce polygamy – till then one of its key doctrines.

Mainstream Mormons believe that the god they serve continues to provide the leaders of the LDS Church with new revelations – some of which may indeed contradict previous revelations.

Fundamentalist Mormons also believe in continuing revelation, but not at the cost of earlier revelations.

There are dozens of Mormon fundamentalist sects and splinter groups (also including some non-polygamous movements).

A few of these groups, such as the Davis Cooperative Society (the so-called Kingston Clan) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have gained notoriety due to crimes ranging from incest to forced marriages.

Theologically, Mormon fundamentalist groups are sects or cults of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), which itself is theologically a cult of Christianity since it rejects, changes or otherwise militates against the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

“The Primer” — which also includes a guide on how to recognize signs of abuse and domestic violence — is frequently revised and updated.

“We want to keep it current, because we want law enforcement officers and social workers to have the most recent information about some of the changes going on in the different groups,” said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in June 2006.

Fox 13:

“At first I did not like it,” Susie Timpson, the chairwoman of the pro-polygamy Centennial Park Action Committee, said of “The Primer.”

“I didn’t like the glossary. There’s a lot of definitions in there that do not apply to us. Like I mentioned, ‘Bleeding the Beast’ is repulsive to me and our community. We don’t feel that way at all!”

Timpson and “The Primer’s” creators acknowledge that not all terms are universal for the various polygamous groups. A recent census put out by the pro-polygamy group Principle Voices estimates about 37,000 people who consider themselves fundamentalist Mormons in Utah and surrounding states.

Timpson told Fox 13 she now believes “The Primer” is invaluable to people’s understanding of polygamous culture.

“I was amazed how well done it was,” she said of the final product. “I recommend people read it. I thought it was excellent.”

Latest edition of The Primer PDF file
Research resources on polygamy

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 21, 2011.
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