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A note on the polygamy sub-plot in the novel Exmormon

Since Exmormon is about the mainstream LDS church, some might object to the fact that I included a significant sub-plot involving modern-day polygamy, which the mainstream church has disavowed.

But the specter of polygamy still haunts the mainstream church. It affects people who are raised in the LDS church -- even far from Utah -- as they learn that the early Latter-day prophets taught polygamy as an eternal principle and taught that not only is there polygamy in the afterlife but that God Himself is probably a polygamist. The manifesto putting a stop to the practice of polygamy did not address the doctrinal questions.

Some faithful LDS may say that what I have written in the previous paragraph misrepresents LDS doctrine. But LDS doctrine is extremely hard to pin down on this point. Despite having a living prophet, the LDS church refuses to issue a statement clarifying or rescinding the teaching regarding eternal plural marriage.

I recall learning as a teen that polygamy was the way of heaven as I learned about my own pioneer ancestors who practiced it. As much a Salt Lake would like to sweep the whole polygamy question under the rug -- and regard any reference connecting the LDS church to the practice of polygamy as a hateful slur -- the reality is that it is a fundamental part of the LDS church's heritage and legacy.

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The fact that polygamy remains a doctrine of the LDS church (see Doctrine & Covenants 132) -- despite no longer being practiced -- allows the Mormon fundamentalist groups to attract converts from among the membership of mainstream LDS church.

The mainstream LDS church and its fundamentalist offshoots tend not to support each other nor have anything to do with one another, yet they are tied together by a common history.

To write details regarding the Mormon fundamentalist experience, I consulted with Troy Bowles (who was raised in the Apostolic United Bretheren), and I also consulted with a guy who was raised FLDS, whose blog I have included in my blog roll (Life in a Cult).

I deliberately made the precisions of Joe's background (in the novel) generic enough that he might have come from either of the groups mentioned above or perhaps from a different fundamentalist group. I did this because my story is not meant as an expose of modern-day polygamy but rather is intended as a portrait of mainstream Mormonism, including a description of the extremely complex relationship between ordinary Mormons and polygamy.

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