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by Janis Hutchinson


In 1890, after being pressured by the U.S. Government, the Mormon Church announced in a Manifesto that it would give up its practice of polygamy (plural marriage) and their separate economy, including their United Order (a system where all things, material and financial, are held in common).

It is believed by Fundamentalists that the Manifesto was deliberately designed to deceive Congress, so that their property wouldn’t be confiscated; but they actually had no intention of giving up plural marriage. At that time those men practicing plural marriage believed that church and priesthood were two separate entities. Because the Doctrine & Covenants states that plural marriage is a law for the priesthood, they claimed the Manifesto was a rule only for the church, not the priesthood. Therefore, priesthood members were free to continue in plural marriage as long as they did it quietly and outside of church.


Eventually, priesthood holders, which included major church leaders, were caught practicing plural marriage. Their trials proved too much notoriety, and the church denounced those who continued to practice plural marriage. The two factions split, with those continuing to practice plural marriage and United Order called, "Fundamentalists." This promoted mutual antagonism between the two groups, especially when Fundamentalists began claiming they had the courage to continue to live God's priesthood laws in spite of the U.S. Government, and the church buckled in cowardice. This antagonism continues today.


The leader of a Fundamentalist group (and there are many) is determined by the man who claims to hold the higher keys to the sealing power. These keys allow them to perform plural marriages. This leader must claim authentic transmission of these keys from one of five or more men who met with President John Taylor on September 26-27, 1886. Supposedly, at that time, the deceased Joseph Smith appeared and instructed President Taylor to ordain and set one to five men apart with the power to perform plural marriages, and they were to pass it down to others. Fundamentalist leaders claiming these keys today, but who can’t prove this succession, will usually claim a supernatural experience to qualify them, stating that either the deceased Joseph Smith, or one of the five deceased men, appeared to them and transferred the keys to them. Since only one person is supposed to hold the keys at a time, this causes strong antagonism between the various groups, and each leader of a group will claim that leaders of other groups are “out of order.” This has often led to the murder of rival leaders.


When new converts first enter Fundamentalism, they are taught the same theology as the mainline LDS church. However, as they progress within the group, they are gradually taught “higher” doctrines. (But, if an outsider should ask them their theology, they will only claim to believe standard, LDS teachings, since they are the only ones who should be privileged to be knowledgeable about other doctrines.) They embrace all the early doctrines of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, many of which are not taught by the mainline church today. Some are as follows:

Plural marriage: The fundamentalists’ main focus is on plural marriage, because its practice qualifies a man for godhood. His future kingdom will be increased more by having many wives and children. (The present-day mainline church also believes this, but does not practice it at present; but anticipate they will in the Millennium.) As a God, a man will then create a new world, like the God of this world did, and people it with his spiritual offspring from his plural wives he procreated with in the pre-mortal world. These spirit children will come down and inhabit the physical bodies of those born on the new earth he will create.

While all Fundamentalists believe in plural marriage, not all necessarily practice it. Some join Fundamentalism only because they want to be faithful in believing in early Mormon doctrines; some join because they do want to live plural marriage; others join because they want to live a United Order, seeing it as an unselfish way of living. Technically, in Fundamentalism, although not always observed, it is the prospective wife’s responsibility to propose to the man. That is, she decides who she wants to marry, and makes her request through the group leader as to which man’s family she wishes to enter. In a few groups, women beyond childbearing, are sealed (married in name only) to the man, and will have no sexual relations with him. Family leaders may also give and/or trade their daughters and granddaughters as wives to older men.

God (Adam/God doctrine). God is always a resurrected man who attained the highest degree within the Celestial Kingdom from a previous world. Until he actually creates a new world and peoples it, he is called a “Michael.” He then condescends to reassume mortality by coming down in the form of an “Adam,” to start the world off with physical beings. His spiritual children will inhabit their bodies. For example: The God of this world was a “Michael” (which is the name of an office or position). In the pre-mortal world, he and his plural wives procreated, and produced many spiritual offspring. Then, he came down to earth and temporarily assumed the role of Adam. According to Brigham Young, he brought Eve one of his Celestial wives with him. Together, they procreated and start producing physical bodies, which their spiritual children will come down and inhabit. (“Adam,” as is “Eve,” is also a title for this function.) When he and Eve were through physically procreating, they partook of the Tree of Life, shed their mortality and reassumed their immortality and went back to the celestial, pre-mortal world. Centuries later, he came to Mary and impregnated her. His (God’s) first born spirit child in the pre-mortal world, entered the physical body of Mary’s baby.

Of interest: Some Fundamentalists advocate the Rosicrucianist belief that Adam/God had three wives. Like Adam, the name of “Eve” is also a title. All Adam’s wives were Eves and also had mortal names: Eve/Eve, Sarah/Eve, and Lillith/Eve. Eve, produced the white race, through whom Adam/God’s elect seed was destined to come through; Sarah, the yellow race, and Lillith the black race.

Cain:The Cain of every previous world is always preserved for the next world. He then becomes “Satan” in our world, not Lucifer. (Lucifer, is a spiritual being, separate from Satan.) Since God’s elect line is to come through Eve, a line must be provided for the less worthy, which is where Cain/Satan comes in. A previous world’s Cain is always saved, so he can seduce one of Adam’s wives in order to propagate a devil-seed and provide a black race for the neutrals, and those who were not valiant in the pre-mortal world. Cain/Satan will always seduce Lillith/Eve, who then will give birth to a son named Cain, who will be black. Lillith’s son, Cain never dies, but becomes a wanderer in the earth; thus, preserving him for the next world, where the whole scenario will be repeated.

Heaven: Fundamentalists believe in the same three heavens as the mainline church (Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial), with this exception: They also believe that in the Celestial Kingdom (the highest heaven), besides the major gods, there will be 144,000 minor gods and goddesses. They are destined to become minor Adams and Eves on future worlds, to help Adam/God and his wives start the new physical race on the newly created planet. When their job is done they, like Adam/God, will partake of the Tree of Life and return to the immortal world. However, Fundamentalists believe that in this earth’s case, the minor gods refused to go back because they looked upon the daughters of men, saw that they were fair, and took them to wife. They are supposedly the ones referred to in Genesis as the Sons of God, whose offspring were giants.

Jesus:They believe that Jesus is the first-born spirit child in heaven of God and a plural wife (Lucifer being the second), and is always the Jehovah of the Old Testament period. They also believe that every first offspring of some future God will always becomes the Jesus Christ for a next world. (All mankind are also spiritual offspring of God and one of his wives.)

Holy “Spirit.” Fundamentalists believe the Holy “Spirit” was the first God in eternity, without a body. It infuses everything, thus can be called omnipresent. This Holy Spirit is not the same as the Holy “Ghost.”

Holy “Ghost.” The Holy “Ghost” is different from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is the third person in a tri-theistic Trinity (where Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three individual, separate personages). The “office” of Holy Ghost has been held by various individuals, who later become great men on earth and headed a dispensation, i.e., Enoch, Moses, Noah, Abraham. It is also believed that Joseph Smith functioned in the role of a Holy Ghost before he was physically born into this world.

Blood Atonement: A few groups, not all, practice Blood Atonement. This doctrine teaches that there are some sins so grievous (usually apostasy, or violation of temple covenants), that Jesus’ blood is insufficient to save them. They can only be saved through the shedding of their own blood, and it is the leader’s responsibility to see that this is done. Those groups who do not carry this out, often instill the concept in members, in order to make them fearful of leaving.


Fundamentalists look back to the older priesthood structure taught by Joseph Smith, some groups believing it included three priesthoods for members: Aaronic, Melchizedek, and Patriarchal (Patriarchal being a higher order within the Melchizedek priesthood); whereas the LDS Church only has two for its members, Aaronic and Melchizedek. Both factions agree in their belief that the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods are conferred by the laying on of hands; but, with Fundamentalists, the Patriarchal Order can only be conferred in a Fundamentalist temple ritual, by the leader who claims to hold the sealing “keys.”

Some groups metaphorically apply levels of priesthood to new, incoming members. The Bryanites are an example: New converts enter at the Aaronic level and are taught very basic doctrines. They then advance to the Melchizedek level, where they learn more doctrines; then to the Patriarchal. Each level makes members privy to higher doctrine and rituals that they did not know when they were in the mainline LDS church. The highest revelation of doctrine occurs at the Patriarchal level.


Fundamentalists wear the long style of temple garments used in the nineteenth century. The mainline LDS Church does not. In one group (not all groups), the sealing (or marriage) of men to men is performed at the Patriarchal level, as in Brigham Young’s day, where one is sealed to the other as spiritual father. However, in one particular group (the Bryanites), it was required that the sealing be consummated like a marriage, thus promoted homosexuality. This group also had temple rituals promoting not only that, but lesbianism. They also practiced a kind of wife-swapping, called “spiritual wifery.” That is, all the men at this higher priesthood level, considered a corporate representative of Jesus the Bridegroom, could have relationships with any of the other men’s wives, because each woman represented the Bride as a whole. Other temple rituals of the Bryanites followed the degrading practices of the Gnostics of New Testament times, which are too offensive to include here. Please note that not all Fundamentalist groups believe or practice the Bryanites’ concepts.


The approximate membership of Fundamentalists today, is a minimum of 50,000, but there is no official count because of the secrecy of its membership. The Utah State Attorney General’s office in the 1960s said there are more people practicing polygamy today than in Brigham Young’s day, and the number is increasing. They are spread over many states, mainly California, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Canada and Montana, with the greatest concentration in Utah. There are also many independent groups led by self-appointed leaders, who have pulled away from the larger organizations. They are called “Independents,” and too numerous to name here. The hierarchy of the LDS Church usually know the names of the leaders and headquarter locations of the larger groups in Utah, but not necessarily the others.

Membership consists of many who have been excommunicated from the mainline LDS church because of their Fundamentalist leanings. There are, today, Mormons who are still in the mainline church, who live a double life—that is, they remain active in the mainline church while secretly belonging to Fundamentalism. Some, not necessarily all, live plural marriage on the sly. However, if a Mormon is discovered by the LDS church as being sympathetic, or having contact with fundamentalists, he or she is called in by their Bishop and face the possibility of excommunication.


Fundamentalism does not have formerly appointed missionaries. Most recruiting is done by men who venture outside the group seeking additional wives, and by responding to members of the mainline Church who seek them out.


Their societal organization is based on living a United Order (called this in large groups) or a United Effort (small groups). These orders consist of having all things in common, materially and financially, with leaders often padding their own pockets. The leaders, as well as the male membership, often exercise unrighteous dominion over those below them—more especially, the women and children. Living in these United Order communes is a difficult and unhappy life. Nevertheless, many remain in spite of the hardness of having their life controlled, believing they are sacrificing to live a law of God.

More members leave the Mormon Church, than from Fundamentalism.

*Copyright 2003 - 2013. This story cannot be copied and used in a professional publication without express permission of the author.

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