You may not think you know about this group and it's obscure. While it hasn't been in the national headlines like the FLDS church has, it is nonetheless a church that has made the national spotlight, just not in a way people may think. This is the church that the people on the reality TV show Sister Wives belong to.
Mormon fundamentalism is a complex subject. About the only common threads with Mormon fundamentalism are belief in the teachings of Joseph Smith and the practice of polygamy. So here is a brief overview:
The Church of Christ that Joseph Smith started in 1830 was originally did not practice polygamy. However, early on in the Church's history, Joseph Smith began practicing polygamy in secret. Towards the end of Joseph's life, many higher ups in the Church were also practicing polygamy but kept it secret, though it was known among many outsiders by this point.
When Joseph Smith died, his church fractured into many sects. The largest of these was led by Brigham Young to Utah. This sect practiced polygamy openly and had many standoffs with the US government about it.
In 1890, the Church ended its practice of polygamy officially, stating that God had sent a revelation to their prophet at the time, Wilford Woodruff, that it should cease. The practice went on for a couple decades in secret in the Church until officials in the Church cracked down heavily on the practice.
Many felt that the Church's leadership had fallen into error and caved to pressure from the US government. It was taught in the Church prior to this revelation that polygamy was an eternal principal that would never be abolished. Many people split from the main Church and formed independent groups, the largest of which today is the FLDS.
About the AUB:
The AUB and the FLDS originate from the same group, called the Short Creek Group. However, the two groups split from each other long ago and have grown very different. The AUB is a polygamist group based out of Bluffdale, Utah with about 10,000 members.
Similarities between mainstream Mormons (LDS) and the AUB:
- Both believe that Joseph Smith restored the primitive Christian church that Jesus had established.
- Both groups believe in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scriptures.
- Both groups believe they have a restored priesthood handed down to them in an unbroken line to Joseph Smith and from him to Jesus.
- Both groups believe in the Godhead as three distinct and separate beings rather than the Trinity in traditional Christian understanding.
- Both groups practice secret temple ceremonies.
- Both groups believe in eternal marriage.
- Both groups believe in revelation.
- Both groups believe in three kingdoms mankind will go to after the Last Judgment: the Celestial Kingdom, Telestial Kingdom, and Terrestrial Kingdom. Outer Darkness awaits the devil, his angels, and those who denied the truth after absolute witness of it.
Differences between the LDS and AUB:
- The biggest and most obvious difference is that the LDS Church stopped practicing polygamy; however, the AUB holds it as a central tenant.
- The AUB does not have a prophet or president of their Church, nor do they have a Quorum of Twelve who guide the Church. Instead, they have a council of high priests who run things. They are headed by the Senior Member and together, they oversee the Priesthood. They state that the president of the LDS Church prior to the banning of the practice created this group to protect the principle of plural marriage and that it has continued to this day.
- The AUB believes in the Adam-God doctrine. This doctrine was taught by early Mormon prophets and states that God the Father took on the body of the first man, Adam, and therefore Adam is our God in bodily form. The LDS Church taught this doctrine was false, and now denies it was ever taught, in spite of lots of historical records to the contrary.
- The AUB believes that the LDS Church is an inspired church with a valid priesthood, but that the LDS Church is in error and that the AUB holds the full truth. In turn, the LDS consider the AUB to be devoid of a valid priesthood and heretical.
- The AUB believes in the United Order, essentially a quasi-communist system that its members live by, in which they share common goods among the community. This was a staple of the early Mormon movement, but abandoned by the LDS Church as it was unworkable in a large church. The LDS Church does hold this as an ideal and awaits the day when they can practice it fully.
Differences between the AUB and FLDS:
- The AUB blend into mainstream society, whereas the FLDS intentionally separate themselves from the outside world and tend to live in compounds.
- The FLDS have a prophet, Warren Jeffs, where the AUB do not.
- The FLDS have many additional restrictions the AUB does not, such as: clothing restrictions on color and style, foods that may be eaten, etc.
- The AUB allow their members to interact with the outside world completely and are free to leave the faith without losing their family or friends. The FLDS only interact with outside world when necessary and if members leave, they are shunned.
- Marriages in the FLDS Church are arranged by the prophet. The AUB are allowed to marry people of their choosing.
The service is an afternoon service this Sunday and from what I have heard, is basically a Mormon Sacrament meeting like the one I've attended before. I'm very curious to see this, and can't wait for it.
I will let you know how it goes. Until then, peace be with you.