An Outsider’s Brushes with the Best and Worst of Utah
I just read this blog post with great interest.
While the author doesn’t formally name them, I assume he is referring to two different religious entities. The first is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church), whose missionaries he talks about. The second “entity,” for lack of a better word, is best described as many smaller sects, some locally led, and some regionally led, that adhere to practices and teachings that are forbidden by the LDS Church. These groups include some infamous ones, such as the those living in the border towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hilldale, Utah, and led by convicted felon Warren Jeffs. There are many others. The main characteristics of these groups are that they reject the current leadership of the LDS Church and practice polygamy. They have been accused of entering into illegal marriages with and illegally engaging in sexual relations with underage girls.
Usually, the mainstream media tries to carefully distinguish the differences between the two groups when reporting by using the monikers “LDS Church” and the “Fundamentalist LDS Church, or FLDS.”
The author relates both positive experiences with LDS Missionaries and negative experiences with people affiliated with the polygamous sects. While the author never really properly distinguishes the two groups, one can hardly blame him for not doing so. These divisions and distinctions can be confusing to people.
I can only assume the small Utah town he talks about is Manti. There are many small Utah towns and even several with temples. There are mainstream Mormons in all of them. There are also extreme opponents to the LDS Church in all of them. Utah is a very polarized place. Having grown up in many small, southern Utah town as a non-Mormon, I appreciate the social stratification in these places. One of these towns I lived in for five years was just minutes north of Manti. Manti boasts two temples: the large stone temple on Temple Hill on the north side of the town, built by the LDS pioneers who dug the Oolite stone from the nearby hills. This temple belongs to the LDS Church and serves tens of thousands of LDS in scores of communities throughout central and southern Utah. Newer temples in Vernal and Monticello have reduced the size of the district served by the Manti temple. The other temple is operated by a small religious group in a storefront on Manti’s Main Street. I don’t know the origins of this temple, nor to I really care to. I assume it is associated with a polygamous group similar to those described above.
So as I read the above blog story about a man’s interactions with LDS missionaries, LDS faithful, and FLDS polygamists belonging to another faith entirely, I just thought about the distinctions. The main point of the author’s blog entry is to shun negative naysayers and gossipers – good advice. I imagine that those gossipers he has interacted with are not unique to any one religion or demographic.