There’s been a lot in the new recently about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—or, rather, Mormons stuck in the early, polygamist mode of the church.
My thoughts about the Mormon Church in general are not positive: it was founded by a crook, it seems, for the sole purpose of getting him rich and extensively laid. My apologies to any Mormons out there, but your faith thinks that Native Americans are the cursed sons of Cain, for chrissake. I’ve known Mormons, and for the most part they’re perfectly functional people, but one wonders the kind of incredulity required to belong to the kind of community that demands special underwear. In reality, the Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hearkens back to the early days of the Catholic Church, when it was largely unchallenged by rival denominations: its leaders became ultimately self-serving, its ideology grew ridiculous, and it seemed tainted by a permanent stench of hucksterism.
But that is all neither here nor there. For a good background on Mormonism, and Fundamentalist Mormonism in particular, I recommend Jon Krakauer’s somewhat sensational Under the Banner of Heaven. Remember that the news we are hearing—young children torn from their mothers bosoms—is all about the Fundamentalist LDS movement, and believe me when I tell you that these polygamist are scary.
I have no doubt that these mothers, garbed in conservative 1950s housedresses, love and care for their children very much. Besides being filled with crazy stories about Joseph Smith, the literal fraternity of Jesus and Satan, and growing up in rather disjointed familial situations, many of them have probably had loving childhoods. But you also need to remember that they are the subject of brainwashing and possibly instilled fear. There are few situations more pornographically awful than religious cults: imagine the females of these children, upon turning 14 or so, forced to become the fourth or fifth wife of a much older man. Those that resist are threatened with excommunication from church and family, as well as eternal damnation. It’s a grand tradition stretching all the way back to the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, who was a huckster and sexual deviant par excellence, informing young, comely members of his newly-duped flock that they would surely perish in hell unless they went to bed with him. It’s more effective than “Are your legs tired? Because you’ve been running through my head all day,” I’ll admit, but slimy and deviant in a way that makes my skin crawl. It’s child abuse, pure and simple, and I view the raids of polygamist ranches as nothing but typical domestic abuse cases writ large and controversial.
Church members will deny up and down that sexual abuse occurs. While I think polygamy is both stupid and awful, I’m also a strict libertarian when it comes to regulating people’s sex lives; nonetheless, I think—or at least I hope—that a long and sad history of religious cults with horny leaders will teach us to be cautious when it comes to giving such cults free reign when it comes to children. The whole thing is sick and depressing.