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THE PHENOMENON OF FUNDAMENTALISMS 

Throughout the preceding pages we have investigated men and women who continued to practice plural marriage after 1904 and eventually adopted the title of "Mormon Fundamentalists."  The term "fundamentalist" was first used to describe a group of activist Protestant Christians.  "In 1920 Curtis Lee Laws, editor of the Northern Baptist newspaper The Watchman Examinier, wrote that a 'fundamentalist' is a person willing to 'do battle royal' for fundamentals of the faith."[1]   Richard T. Antoun, author of Understanding Fundamentalisms, explained:  "The movement, like the word fundamentalism, initially emerged among rural and urban Presbyterians and Baptists in the early decades of the twentieth century."[2]   Joseph Musser began using the title to describe himself and his followers in 1935,[3] although it appears the term was not generally applied to post-1904 polygamists until the early 1940s.[4]                                                                              

Mormon fundamentalists believe that the suspension of plural marriage and the discontinuation of law of consecration occurred as a reaction to the need to conform to more modern governmental expectations.  In contrast, Latter-day Saints acknowledge the government's influence on the chronology of events, but insist that continuous revelation authorized the changes, rather than strictly man's wisdom. 

         

 Fundamentalist Leaders

Within the history of Mormon fundamentalism we find a variety of remarkable leaders, each manifesting his own mesmerizing qualities.  The primary mover and founder, Lorin C. Woolley, perhaps reflected more mystique than charisma.  Following him for a brief six months was handsome and capable J. Leslie Broadbent.  The authoritative John Y. Barlow may have alienated too many followers had he not be upheld by the incredibly charismatic Joseph W. Musser.  In many ways it seems that Musser's physical presence, his articulate speech, and his writing prowess carried the movement for nearly two decades.  Next in line were the less charismatic though senior High Priest Apostles, LeGrande Woolley and Louis Kelsch, who declined to assert themselves in the callings they received from Lorin C. Woolley.  To fill the void, Rulon C. Allred grasped the reins in the north while Leroy Johnson assumed leadership in the south, each possessing his own sincerity and charisma.

Weaknesses of the Fundamentalist Position - Selectivity

         For Mormon fundamentalists, selectively emphasizing plural marriage and the law of consecration (and de-emphasizing missionary work) has produced an interesting dynamic in their relationship with the world surrounding them.  Practicing these two principles does not require an outward worldly focus, but is primarily centered in his/her family and close neighbors.  This facilitates the formation of a very self-focused society that could easily approach religious and even physical isolation.  Fundamentalist leader Leroy S. Johnson summarized: "Let us look to our own selves.  If we labor from now on and save no one but our own souls, how great will our joy be in the Kingdom of God."[41] 

In contrast, the mother Church does not manifest this selectivity and isolation.  With an expanding emphasis on preaching the gospel throughout the world and providing temple ordinances to all of God's followers, missionaries are sent to every nation, kindred, tongue and people[42] and temples now dot the earth:  "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God... Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.  And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!"  (D&C 18:10, 14-15.)

Weaknesses of the Fundamentalist Position - Adding New Doctrines

      LDS scholars believe that Mormon fundamentalists have also manifested this tendency, asserting that teachings of the external PRIESTHOOD organization, with a Priesthood Council (Council of Friends), and High Priest Apostles were new doctrines in 1933.  Equally novel is the repeated emphasis on the widespread duties of the "one mighty and strong," which were unheard of prior to the twentieth century.

 

          

 


[1]  Ammerman, "North American Protestant Fundamentalism," 2.

[2]  Lawrence, Defenders of God, 230; see also Robert Anderson, "Mormon Rationalist," 72.

[3] Truth 1:52.

[4]  Mark E. Peterson is credited with creating the label, "Mormon fundamentalist."  See  Truth 13 (May 1948) 315;  LSJ Sermons 4:1491; Fred Jessop, "Deposition 13 June 1989," 37.

[5]  Marty and Appleby, Glory and the Power, 22.

[6]  Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 1-2.

[7]    "Fundamentalists name, dramatize and even mythologize their enemies." (Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 820.    In 1988 Martin Marty and Scott Appleby started The Fundamentalism Project at the University of Chicago.  It became a forum for studying "fundamentalisms" throughout the world and resulted in the publication of five books dealing with the subject.)  "Fundamentalists define themselves in large part by what they are against.  They always have a very real and easily identifiable enemy" (Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 56).

[8]  "In the process of interpreting the tradition, evaluating modernity, and selectively retrieving salient elements of both, charismatic and authoritarian male leaders play a central role."  (Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 826; italics in original.)  "These males, interestingly enough, are dominantly laymen, not clergy" (Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 21).

[9]  Lawrence, Defenders of God, 100.

[10]  Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 24.

[11]  Truth 11 (December 1945) 194.

[12]  Dinges, "Roman Catholic Traditionalism," 67.

[13]  "Jewish fundamentalism did not surface till after the establishment of the Zionist state in the late 1940.  Fundamentalism within Judaism nonetheless has roots that predate all others.  The social origins of Jewish fundamentalists are traceable to the ghettoization of European Jewry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."  (Lawrence, Defenders of God, 230-31.)

[14]  Heilman and Friedman, "Religious Jews," 197.

[15]  Aran, "Jewish Zionist Fundamentalism," 266.

[16]  Voll, "Fundamentalism in the Sunni Arab World," 348; italics in original.

[17]  Sachedina, "Shi'ism  in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon," 403-56.

[18]  Gold, "Organized Hinduisms," 533.

 

[19]  Madan, "Fundamentalism and the Sikh Religious Tradition," 597.

[20]  Swearer, "Theravada Buddhism," 628.

[21]  Wei-ming, "Confucian Revival," 743, 745.

[22]  Lawrence, Defenders of God, 24.

[23]  Ibid., 2.

[24]  Ibid., ix, xxv.  See also Robert Anderson, "Mormon Rationalist," 73.

[25]  Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 160.

[26]  Bennion, Desert Patriarchy, 16.

[27]  Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 818; italics in original.

[28] Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalism Observed, ix.

[29]  Lawrence, Defenders of God, 17.

[30]  Ibid., 97.

[31]  Ibid., 7.

[32]  Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 835; italics added.

[33]  Ibid., 821.

[34]  Ibid., 824.

[35]  Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 92.

[36]  Lawrence, Defenders of God, 15; italics added.

[37]  Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 826; italics in original.

[38] Ibid., 819.

[39]  Ibid., 825; italics in original.

[40]  Ibid. , ix-x; italics added.

[41]  LSJ Sermons, 5:58; italics added.

[42]  See Revelation 14:6 and D&C 133:37.

[43]  Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 835.

[44]  Ibid.; italics added. 

[45]  Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalisms, 118.