Following the controversy over the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latterday Saints), the LDS Church—commonly called “Mormon”—is facing what has been described as a “PR nightmare” (NPR, June 30).
The April raid on the FLDS compound in Texas was widely reported in the US and international media. In many reports, the FLDS group was described as a “breakaway Mormon group” or “renegade Mormon group.” Since many people do not understand the difference between the LDS and FLDS (or other “fundamentalist Mormons”), or simply associate the FLDS with the Mormon faith, this is seen by the LDS Church as creating confusion.
According to a poll conducted by the Church, more than a third of those surveyed believed that the FLDS group was part of the LDS Church. In June, the LDS Church started a public relations campaign to emphasize its distinction from the FLDS. According to Howard Berkes’s NPR report, the Salt Lake City-headquartered church has attempted to counteract others claiming a Mormon identity, including by the posting of videos on YouTube describing Mormons as mainstream people.
It also suggests that it is misleading for other groups to adopt the name of an established church, writes Ben Winslow in the Church-linked Deseret News (July 11). Polygamous groups reply that they share the same background as the larger LDS Church, also use the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures, and want to be known as “fundamentalist Mormons,” having been “referred to by that name since the 1930s, often by the Church itself.” Mary Batchelor, co-founder of Principles Voice (a “fundamentalist Mormon” coalition), says that “[w]e do not feel we have rejected Mormonism in any way” (Salt Lake Tribune, July 10).
In a statement published on July 10, the LDS Newsroom stated that the LDS Church respects the right of polygamous groups to define themselves as they wish, “as long as they don’t distort the well-established identity of a longstanding church.” It called on the media for “a sense of proportion and perspective” when dealing with the issue.
(NPR, http://www.npr.org; Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com; LDS Newsroom, http://newsroom.lds.org; Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com)