What Motivates Individuals to Join Polygamist Groups?
The Apostle Paul expressed his concern for individuals who had "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2). Zeal without sufficient knowledge may prompt people to join fundamentalist groups as they look "beyond the mark."
The prophet Jacob observed that the Jews were blinded to important truths and that their "blindness came by looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14). "Mormon Fundamentalists" place heavy emphasis on a selected group of practices and teachings which unfortunately leaves them blind to the overall mission of the restored Church.
The practice of polygamy is a good example. Most fundamentalists have adopted the practice, believing it is absolutely required for full exaltation. However, Brigham Young taught that "a man may embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart and not take the second wife and be justified before the Lord" (Wilford Woodruff Journals, Sept. 24, 1871).
The actions of fundamentalists today suggest that they disbelieve Brigham Young’s statement. They continue to focus on the practice of plural marriage apparently blinded to many of the other teachings restored through Joseph Smith. Their lack of missionary work and lack of ordinance work for the dead are a prime examples.
Joseph Smith taught: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (Articles of Faith 9).
It seems fundamentalists are very willing to receive all revelations, as long as they do not change any of their treasured practices and teachings. They believe in revelation, but are convinced that God would never suspend the practice of polygamy (or the law of consecration etc.). This creates a form of selective listening causing men and women only to hear the things they want to hear as they are lead astray.
It appears that some Mormon Fundamentalists want to freeze the Church organization as it existed in the 1840s or 1880s. They perceive the organizational changes which are required to accommodate new members who join the Church as missionaries "gather the elect from the four corners of the earth" (Moses 7:62) as apostasy. They may also criticize efforts which allow temples to "dot the earth" bringing saving ordinances to members in their own lands.
Most Mormon Fundamentalists lack an understanding of the history of the fundamentalist movement itself. While many of them possess significant knowledge of the scriptures and general Church history, relatively few have studied the period between 1920 and 1945 when the fundamentalist movement took form.
President Joseph F. Smith stopped authorizing plural marriages in 1904. Most modern polygamists believe that at that time, a Mormon Fundamentalist organization assumed responsibility for the practice in an orderly fashion. Nothing could be further from the truth though very few fundamentalists are aware of this fact.
What is also very problematic is that most fundamentalists have not investigated the lives and teachings of their own leaders such as Lorin C. Woolley. Within the fundamentalist factions prominent traditions exist concerning his experiences and teachings. However, genuine details regarding his life and prophesies have been hidden. Leaders of the largest fundamentalist groups have refused to publish Musser’s handwritten journals or his "Book of Remembrance." Both of these volumes contain numerous important details of Woolley’s life and his many prophesies which never came true.
In 1829 the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery saying, "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (D&C 9:7-8; italics added).
It appears that thousands of Mormon Fundamentalists have obtained a conviction concerning Lorin Woolley’s claims without adequately "studying him out in their minds." It is so easy to accept traditional teachings regarding Woolley, then asking God for a witness, without the slightest investigation. Individuals who "take no thought save it is to ask God" about Lorin Woolley or fundamentalist doctrines leave themselves open to spurious influences.
One problem sometimes encountered within Mormon Fundamentalism results from a "superiority complex" that may be produced within it adherents. It is very enticing. Invariably they come to believe that they are living a "higher law" than that observed by Church members. This enhances their self-image by placing them in a position which is allegedly superior to members of the Church. This can give their self-esteem a boost but at a significant price. It may generate pride and is so difficult to ever renounce.
Some fundamentalists appear very sincere. However, beneath the appearance there is always a complete lack of submissiveness to the Lord’s anointed: the President of the Church and living Apostles. Regrettably, they do not sustain these priesthood leaders. We remember the Heavenly Father declared: "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38). Of course this brings us to the question: "Who truly holds the keys of the priesthood?" The answer: The keys are still firmly held by the presiding apostle, the Church President.
Some dissidents might be characterized as "religious tumbleweeds." Many of them may first be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but after a few years become dissatisfied. Next they might encounter an apostate group and partake of their teachings and spirit. Yet after a few more years as a Mormon Fundamentalist, they become dissatisfied again. From there they may become a law unto themselves or even create their own church. Some may give up religion all together or seek some new avenue of enlightenment such as Buddhism or a Pentecostal Christian group.
One minor motive inspiring modern polygamists may involve the "cloak and dagger" secrecy they strive to maintain. Some have pass-words and elaborate "fronts" to hide their clandestine practices from the government, Church leaders, friends and even family.
While most modern polygamists will assert that their dedication to polygamy is strictly religious, there are sexual aspects which cannot be overlooked. It appears that the men who seek plural marriages experience the same temptations as other men.