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What's the history of polygamy in North America?


Polygamy and the LDS Today
LDS Mormons, like those who meet and worship at the Salt Lake City temple and tabernacle, don't engage in plural marriage at all.
LDS Mormons, like those who meet and worship at the Salt Lake City temple and tabernacle, don't engage in plural marriage at all.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Misconceptions about the Mormon religion have become fairly ingrained in modern Western culture. Those who live far from mainstream Mormon communities often confuse Fundamental Mormonism with LDS Mormonism. This is a mistake.

Certainly, the most basic division between LDS Mormons and Fundamentalist Mormons is also the most obvious one: the practice of polygamy. In short, "Big Love" is not the mainstream.

LDS Mormons don't believe in plural marriage. It hasn't been sanctioned by the Church in well over 100 years. Fundamentalist Mormons do practice polygamy (although not every single one -- some believe in the Principle but choose monogamy for themselves). That is, at the core, what makes them "Fundamentalist."

But it's not the only thing. Aside from the plural-marriage issue, there are key lifestyle differences between LDS and Fundamentalist.

Mainstream Mormons are just that: mainstream. They may live in areas with large Mormon populations, but in much the same way as Muslims, Jews, Catholics, conservatives, liberals, or new immigrants may choose communities of like minds. LDS Mormons work, shop, dine and watch movies right alongside the rest of the general population. They tend to look just like any other conservatively dressed people out there.

And the LDS Prophet is not all-powerful; a council is involved in all Church decisions. That's a key difference: In Fundamentalist Mormon sects, the Prophet is entirely in charge. It's what can make Fundamentalist sects seem cultish to some. But it's important to note that the individual sects are just that: individual…


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