Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fundamentalist Temple Work

Today's Deseret News has an absolutely fascinating article about a new religious temple being constructed near Eldorado, Texas. The temple belongs to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, See also here. (Not affiliated with the Mormon Church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

What is so fascinating to me is the fact this religious group has a temple, that is or near completion. I did not know they had or were constructing a temple. I did not know their belief system incorporated temple worship or work of any kind. While it's virtually impossible to build a temple in secret, no one has been talking much about this temple.

Reports the Deseret News:

The polygamous sect itself remains silent, as it has been since construction started.
"They're not making a lot of comments on it," Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said. "They said, 'Yeah, the structure's completed on the exterior,' but they didn't elaborate."

On a dirt road just a few miles outside of the tiny town of Eldorado, the temple stands out amid the surrounding ranchland. It has a limestone facade. Arched windows around the building lead up to turrets, which surround the roof. Atop it all is a short-domed steeple, reminiscent of the Nauvoo, Ill., temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Above the doorway is the "all seeing eye" and an inscription that reportedly includes the phrase, "Holiness to the Lord in the House of the Lord."

"We believe it's done," Doran said. "We don't know about the interior, but the exterior looks definitely done. They've got sod down, they've got the fence out, they've got metal railing on the stairs."

News of the FLDS temple's completion has reached some in the polygamous border communities of Hildale, Washington County, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"About half the people who live here still don't even know about it," former-FLDS member Ross Chatwin said. "Warren (Jeffs) was very upset when the apostates (FLDS members who have been excommunicated) found out about it."

Based on published reports, one key belief or doctrine of the FLDS group is the practice of polygamy. Will this practice be solemnized in this temple? Will they perform sealing work similar to the work that is performed in LDS Temples all over the world? I have no idea, and apparently so does no one else:

Doran said he maintains contact with FLDS members on the YFZ Ranch, who told him members will flock from all over the United States to Texas as a retreat.

"They said they'll do their temple work and return home," he said. Asked what kind of temple work will be performed, Doran said he had no idea.
If I were to guess right now, I would say the FLDS leadership (one of whom is wanted for alleged sexual assaults on a minor), may be contemplating a legal defense of their polygamous beliefs and practices. Religious belief and practice, at least currently, is a highly protected exercise of the First Amendment. Even though polygamy is currently outlawed in all 50 states, it is nevertheless practiced by several groups around the country. The FLDS group can make the legal argument that their polygamy practice ought to be protected by the First Amendment.

This constitutional argument did not work well for the original Church of Jesus Christ in the late 1800's; however, times have changed, as has the legal framework. The gay rights movement has been extremely successful in their assault on traditional marriage, between one man and one woman. Their legal basis, at least in my opinion, is not nearly as strong as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The FLDS church has always maintained their polygamous life style was a matter of deeply held religous belief. See a related article here.

Beginning to solemnize polygamous marriages in their new temple would be an additional strong argument in a potential legal assault on current polygamy laws throughout the country. Given what courts have done throughout the country with traditional marriage laws, I think it entirely plausible polygamy laws may start falling under this type of potential legal challenge. If courts are willing to strike down current marriage laws using strained legal arguments, how much more likely are they to strike down laws based on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment? This is one to watch.

6 Comments:

Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Dave had something on this back in april.

If they are like some of the other fundies, they want to replicate the temple endowment and the fullness of the priesthood.

A bit disturbing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

j stapley: Thanks for linking to Dave's comments on the FLDS temple. I didn't know about Dave's post, or for that matter the FLDS temple. If their focus is to replicate the temple endowment and priesthood authority it is disturbing. It will be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 5:05:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

Charley Foster, a Utah lawyer, has been watching this group for a while. Here is a Google search on his blog that pull up the relevant posts, most of which point to other news articles.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 9:34:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

bradley: Thanks for this link to Charley Foster. I checked out his website, and liked it. It's called The State of the Beehive, and it's URL is:

http://utahbeehive.blogspot.com/

I don't think he checked with the Trbiune on whether his blog contribues to that religious divide over there in the "Beehive" state.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 5:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Mogget said...

Thanks for the info. If you're following this story, I'd be very interested in hearing more on it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:06:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

mogget: If I come across further information I'll certainly post on it. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:23:00 AM  

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