So now, on the heels of the news that John Karr is (sur­prise!) not linked to the Ramsey débâ­cle, we learn Warren Jeffs has been caught.

Jeffs faces charges in Mohave County includ­ing being an acces­sory to rape and child abuse; he’s the “leader” of the fLDS cult in the part of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon known as “the strip”. The strip is to Arizona what the upper penin­sula of Michigan is to Michigan — a nom­i­nally attached and very hard to patrol sliver of state that should prob­a­bly be given away to the ter­ri­tory it actu­ally bor­ders (in this case, Utah).

Apparently he was pulled over Monday in a rou­tine traf­fic stop north of Vegas. The trooper hauled him in.

(I know what you’re think­ing, but the “f” in fLDS is for fun­da­men­tal­ist. Which is almost the same thing, only more vicious, stu­pid and inbred.)

It’s not the polygamy that I have trou­ble with, per se — actu­ally I’d like to see more polyandry in gen­eral. However, the fLDS fla­vor of polygamy is closer to harem-​​keeping than it is to any­thing that might be of ben­e­fit to the women involved. (Or, obvi­ously, the kids — par­tic­u­larly the girls.)

Polygamy was repealed in main­stream Mormonism quite a while back, after it was declared ille­gal by the US Fed. (To be fair, the Fed made it ille­gal in an attempt to per­se­cute Mormons.) The prac­tice was excused by the church as being good for fam­i­lies — but since Mormon women are essen­tially chat­tel, this is obvi­ously a load of bullshit.

We’re talk­ing about a church that wouldn’t even let black mem­bers have sym­bolic power until the 1970s, when it was forced to do so (again by the Fed). Women are still not allowed to hold the “priest­hood”, an allegedly holy power that only the empenised can bear. Since women can’t hold the priest­hood, they can­not ascend to church lead­er­ship. It’s a lit­tle like how the Catholics run things, with less fondling of the altar boys.

The dif­fer­rence between Mormonism and fLDS is really one of degree. Both cults want their girls mar­ried off ASAP. Both have his­to­ries of polygamy. Both present a pub­lic face that is rad­i­cally at vari­ance from the inter­nal issues they have (the only child rapist I’ve ever per­son­ally known was a Mormon; he was hav­ing sex with his own teenaged daugh­ter). Both believe they have a “liv­ing prophet” head­ing the cult who speaks directly to Iasus himself.

(Actually the dif­fer­ences between Mormonism and right-​​wing Islam are really mat­ters of degree too, though of course Muslims don’t believe in the divin­ity of Iasus, only that he was a prophet.)

This means a cou­ple of things.

  1. The fLDS cult isn’t going to van­ish; they’ll just pick another prophet; and
  2. Anyone who believes any of this pif­fle is clearly deranged.

More parochially from my point of view, this also means Kingman is going to become a minor media dis­as­ter area for a while, since it’s the Mohave County seat. I have to won­der how this will affect traf­fic, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing my morn­ing bike com­mute to work.

But what galls me about main­stream Mormonism is how quickly its mem­bers are ready to dis­avow fLDS and sim­i­lar splin­ter groups. There was always, in my expe­ri­ence, a sense of “Yeah, well, those guys are crazy; we’re the ones with The Truth.” Internally, this is sen­si­ble to Mormons. From the out­side, of course, it’s abun­dantly clear both groups are messed up. (And I’m sure there’s a lot of schaden­freude float­ing around Mormon groups right now.)

Mormons (and fLDS), like all fun­da­men­tal­ist loony cults, believe they’ve found The Truth — never mind the facts — and that they’re the only ones so priv­i­leged. This is sim­i­lar to draw­ing the con­clu­sion that English is The Perfect Language and every­one who doesn’t speak it is some­how inferior.

The fact of English usage is really an acci­dent of birth, just as are other aspects of one’s social con­text. Religion is one such acci­dent. The big dif­fer­ence is that reli­gious chau­vin­ism is self-​​creating and –sus­tain­ing; cult adher­ents are encour­aged to believe in The Truth they claim to know. There’s con­sid­er­ably less out­right arro­gance in most other social mechanisms.

But there’s no way to make this clear fact sen­si­ble to any­one who’s con­vinced of his Truth, and that’s unfor­tu­nate. If more minds could be inoc­u­lated against toxic memes such as reli­gion, we’d be liv­ing on a more peace­ful — and pos­si­bly more sen­si­ble — planet.

Now if you’ll ‘scuse me, I have to get my hip boots on. I fear the bull­shit fore­cast is call­ing for unprece­dented local flooding…


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