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Krista Cook

LDS Splinter Groups Explained

By July 25, 2013

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Knowing I was from the western United States, a colleague once ask me, "Is Salt Lake growing?" I launched into a detailed and, I thought, very appropriate discussion of population levels of Utah's state capital.

Instead of polite interest, there was befuddlement. Another person listening in, correctly diagnosed the confusion and got us all on the right track, "He meant the lake!" Oh, the lake. Well, why did he ask me about the city then? Given the way he phrased the question, my assumption was natural.

Utah natives refer to the city as "Salt Lake" or "Salt Lake City." When referring to the lake, they call it, "The Great Salt Lake." We do this automatically, without thinking.

I keep this instance in mind when people ask me questions. Instead of assigning my own meaning to their terms, I have to discern what they mean given the terms they use

A historian once asks me what the Church has against fundamentalism. It took me a minute or two to diagnose the real question as well as the intent behind it. For the LDS, the term "fundamentalism" means one thing and one thing only, polygamy. When I told him that he said, "Gotcha, what I was reading now makes sense." He was using Christian fundamentalism as his frame of reference.

The term "Mormon Fundamentalist" seems to be a term coined by news media to describe the fundamentalist splinter groups that broke off from the Church or were never a part of it to begin with.

The LDS Church bristles at the term because it is a contradiction. There are no subgroups or denominations in the LDS faith. True members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, usually called "Mormons," do not practice polygamy.

So, who and what are these groups that claim some sort of Mormon origin? I answer those questions in the article, Splinter Groups of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The recent death of James Dee Harmston (Jim Harmston) may result in questions cropping up about these groups. Harmston led a polygamist group in Manti, Utah. Many had been LDS and were occasionally referred to as "Manti Mormons." Strangely enough, he died of natural causes on June 27, the same day Joseph Smith, our founding prophet was martyred.

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