Area near Humansville, Missouri is home to Mormon fundamentalists

A community of up to 500 Mormon fundamentalists make their home in an area near Humansville, Missouri, the News-Leader reports.

A pair of Humansville twins say they lived in that community for nearly 10 years before leaving the man they both married.

The 27-year-old women told Cedar County authorities in February they were victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault at the hands of the husband they shared. […]

Anne Wilde, co-founder of the Salt Lake City-based polygamy advocacy group, Principle Voices, said she knows of a fundamentalist Mormon group of people who adhere to mixed beliefs living together in Cedar County.

“They are kind of a melting pot,” she said.

Wilde said parts of the community identify with established fundamentalist Mormon groups while others are more independent.

These different groups have decided to live together, Wilde said.

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

Mormon fundamentalists believe they are following the “true” Mormon faith as laid down by founder Joseph Smith, while the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “out of order” because of its disavowal of plural marriage, the United Order and other early doctrines.

The News-Leaders says Ken Driggs, a Mormon historian based in Atlanta,

believes the majority of people identify with a group called the Apostolic United Brethren. He added several groups and independents are represented there. […]

Driggs and Wilde both said despite some bad apples, the rate of abuse among fundamentalist Mormons is no greater than any other segment of the population. […]

[Driggs] also said a common misconception about fundamentalist Mormon groups is widespread polygamy.

Cult or not?
In a sidebar the newspaper also quotes Missouri State University religion instructor David Embree, who said Mormon fundamentalists, like members of any fundamentalist religion, are following the early doctrines of their faith.

“Essentially, they say ‘we are doing it the way it was originally supposed to be done,'” said Embree, an instructor in new religious movements.

According to Embree Fundamentalist Mormons come from a Christian heritage.

stressed that although these groups seem unusual and isolated, they should not be referred to as a “cult.”

“They aren’t dangerous. They aren’t gonna drink the Kool-Aid,” he said. “They just really want to be on their own and live the way they want to live.”

As an instructor in ‘new religious movements,’ Embree should be aware of the fact that the term ‘cult’ defined either sociologically or theologically. Sociology concerns itself with behavior, while theology concerns itself with doctrine.

It should be noted that Fundamentalist Mormons do not come from ‘Christian heritage,’ but rather originated with the Mormon Church which, theologically, is a cult of Christianity. Likewise, as followers of what they consider to be the original doctrines of the LDS Church, Mormon Fundamentalist groups should also be classified as, theologically, cults of Christianity.

The term ‘cult of Christianity’ 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 un-Christian.

While most fundamentalist sects of the Mormon Church may not be ‘dangerous,’ there are legitimate concerns about the way certain doctrines are taught and enforced within a number of these groups. The best-known example is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), ruled by Warren Jeffs, a ruthless leader current in jail awaiting trial on sexual abuse and bigamy charges.

The FLDS has been in the news for allegedly arranging child marriages. FLDS members who have fallen in disfavor have been ousted from their communities; their wives, children and homes re-assigned to other men. In addition, as many as 1,000 teens have been cut off from their families and communities in Utah to ensure plenty of young brides for older, polygamous men.

Such practices, based on the whims of a leader viewed by followers as a prophet sent and empowered by God, make the FLDS a cult sociologically, as well as theologically.

Drinking the Kool-Aid
Incidentally, “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has become a metaphor for uncritically following teachings or instructions. The phrase is a reference to the November 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where members of the Peoples Temple cult were said to have committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.

Forensic evidence showed that Flavor Aid rather than Kool-Aid was used in the murder-suicides.

Research resources on Mormon Fundamentalists
Polygamous sects of the Mormon Church
Informal list of polygamous sects

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday May 2, 2011.
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