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Review of Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism by Brian C. Hales

To quote author, Janet Jensen, who quoted an Australian newspaper quoting her: "Polygamists are not Mormons and Mormons are not Polygamists." That being said, I read an interesting book lately.

With all that's been in the press recently I was happy to find the latest addition to the "Setting the Record Straight" series by Millennial Press. I do own a few others of this series (Setting the Record Straight) so it's been interesting to delve into this one.

Mormon Fundamentalism by Brian C. Hales is a brief summation of his book Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations After the Manifesto.

First, let's learn a little about the author. This is Brian C. Hales' third book dealing with Mormon fundamentalist polygamy. In 1992 he co-authored The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, an LDS Perspective. Fourteen years later he wrote Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations After the Manifesto, which received the Best Book of 2007 award from the John Whitmer Historical Association. Brian works as an anesthesiologist at the Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, Utah, where he has served as the Director of the Anesthesia Department and Chairman of Surgical Services. He has also served as the Medical Director of the Davis Surgical Center and President of the Davis County Medical Society.

An active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a former full-time missionary, he is the webmaster of www.mormonfundamentalism.com, a website dedicated to providing viewers with an historical and doctrinal examination of Mormon fundamentalist beliefs. Brian has presented at the Mormon History Association meetings, Sunstone Symposiums, and John Whitmer Historical Association meetings on polygamy-related topics. His articles have also been published in Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought and the Journal of Mormon History. In addition to his historical works, Brian has authored three books on doctrinal themes entitled The Veil (2000), Trials (2002), and Light (2004). He is the father of four children.

Now, about Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism:

I don't know about other Latter-day Saints, but I've often wondered what exactly happened to make a faction of people decide they knew more or had more authority than a prophet of God. Hales takes us through each faction, the Allreds, the LeBarons, the Kingstons and many more than I ever knew about. How they went from simple dissenters to major lawbreakers, how they survived, how they grew, and decreased, and where they are today. He also discusses the beliefs of each faction as well. It's very interesting, if convoluted.

Years ago I worked with a sister-in-law of the LeBarons who turned from being fundamentalists to murderers. She only spoke of it once, but it was bone-chilling in her numb recitation of her escape from that faction and the LeBaron brothers. Until her I'd never really given a second thought to "that group of people", collectively speaking, who broke from the Church when the Manifesto was issued.

The descriptions of these individual groups were confusing, but then I decided it was because the actions of the individual groups were confusing and Hales did the best he could to make some sense out of it.

On the back cover we read:

The FLDS and other Mormon fundamentalists draw their strength from sincerity, tradition and their own personal convictions. Most are earnest, leading peaceful lives. Yet it appears that an examination of their theology and history shows numerous distinctions from the fundamentals taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Mormon fundamentalists like the FLDS , the Allreds, Tom Green, the Kingstons, the LeBarons, and others have captured the national spotlight off and on for years. They claim to be the guardians of fundamental principles The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has jettisoned. Is that so? This book analyzes their history, explaining how and why these groups evolved outside of the LDS Church.

In addition, it addresses questions regarding the law of consecration, teenage brides, the 1890 Manifesto, the sealing keys, the “one mighty and strong” mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, an 1886 revelation to John Taylor, high priest apostles, section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants (on celestial and plural marriage), the Adam-God theory, polygamy in eternity, proper priesthood ordinations, and others.

Well researched, I finally found "the" description I was looking for three quarters of the way through the book:
"The Kingstons represent an intriguing branch on the Mormon fundamentalist tree. While they affirm that they now carry the torch first lit by Joseph Smith, their agenda focuses only on plural marriage and their own brand of united order.

The Prophet Joseph's priorities of missionary work, temple ordinances, proxy work for the dead, and feeding the poor appear to have been lost somewhere.

Early persecution seems to have conditioned Kingston leaders to maintain the utmost secrecy, but third generation officers seem to use ignorance as a tool to enhance control of their followers, especially of women. With the dawn of the twenty-first century, lawsuits and education among Kingston followers would combine to create new obstacles, as leaders perpetuate this financial-spiritual hybrid organization." (Brian C. Hales, Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism, Orem, 2008 115)
I would contend this describes all the polygamist groups covered in Hales book, rather than just the Kingstons. These dissenters, all of them, chose one principle, which existed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a short time, and continue to live it against the dictates of prophets since 1895. As Hales described above, important principles of the Gospel have been pushed aside by these groups.

In 1895, when the Manifesto was revealed to then prophet, Wilford Woodruff, and subsequently to the general membership of the Church, there were many who rebelled against President Woodruff and continued to participate in plural marriages, polygamy, in secret. As men in this group began to disagree with one, sometimes violently, new factions were formed which eventually brings us to the climate which exists in Mormon Fundamentalism today.

Hales does a good job in summarizing each group, their history, their teachings, such as they are, and where each group stands today. The man knows this subject, inside and out. It was an interesting read and I recommend everyone grab one, if only to satisfy your curiosity of these drastic offshoots of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Review of Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism by Brian C. Hales Review of Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism by Brian C. Hales Reviewed by Candace Salima on Tuesday, July 01, 2008 Rating: 5