When Mormons hear about the FLDS practices, they usually dismiss them because they do not consider that religious group part of Mormonism. I know that because I did it myself for many years. My canned response to such questions would always go something like this.
“While the LDS church once practiced polygamy, they no longer condone it and anyone that is found practicing it is excommunicated. So, the “Mormons” spoken of in this case are not really Mormon and have nothing to do with the church I belong to.”
That would be the end of the conversation and I would think nothing of it. Since then, I have become a bit more enlightened on the subject and have realized that this kind of attitude is dangerous. LDS members seem to ignore the fact that those in the FLDS religion are actually following the teachings of Joseph Smith very closely. They believe that he was a prophet, and they follow the Book of Mormon and other revelations, just like mainstream Mormons do. They have the same roots and their basic tenets come from the mouths of early LDS leaders. They have chosen to stay with those doctrines while mainstream Mormonism has, in many cases, gone in a different direction.
If Joseph Smith lived today, would Mormons think the same way about him as they do Warren Jeffs? If you compare the actions of the two men, they are very similar. They both forced women and underage girls, through coercion, to marry them. They provided the same service to other men who proved their loyalty to them. They both had sex with those women against their will and held their victims hostage through threats of eternal damnation and physical punishment if they were not obedient.
While the church stopped the practice of polygamy back in 1890, there were actually still other plural marriages that were permitted by the prophet up until around 1904. The belief in plural marriage still exists in the Morg and it is my contention that if they had not received so much social and political pressure to change, they would still be practicing it today.
Here’s the question that comes to mind when I think about this topic. If the Mormon church had not stopped the practice of polygamy, would I have ended up like one of those poor kids? As a grown man, would I have been a participant in something so degrading and hurtful to women and children? It is a question worth thinking about because it is my opinion that most Mormons don’t understand how close they were to being put into the same situation.