"Those of us in Utah sometimes forget that people who don’t live here aren’t all that familiar with the Mormon church. Most Utahns probably know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) does not sanction polygamy. And that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) is all about having multiple wives." (Pierce, 2018)
Notice that the names are very similar between these two churches. However, it can be very frustrating to those who are Mormon, LDS, mainstream Mormon, modern LDS, and all the other names that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints go by, to be coupled with the polygamous groups. The FLDS polygamous group is one of the most well known and has essentially the same name as the modern LDS church with Fundamentalist being the only variation.
Yes, these groups originated from historical teachings of the LDS church, however, they are entirely different churches. They have different prophets, beliefs, values, practices, and different members. There are many beliefs that are similar that contribute to the confusion of grouping the churches, however they are practiced differently. In fact, even the multiple polygamous groups are very different from each other. It is not fair to lump these groups all together as one group. Stereotyping them all together causes confusion and invalidates the very real experience of the survivors from these groups. Not all polygamous groups wear the dresses, not all polygamous members have a public bank account, not all polygamists have their babies at home, not all polygamists live in squalor, not all of the men are sexual predators. These stereotypes can be dangerous in revictimizing victims, and those who care to comment about polygamy should do their research and understand the cultures of the different groups.
Back to the article referenced above, the LDS church stopped the practice of polygamy back in the 1890s and released what is known as the 1890 Manifesto to cease the practice of polygamy among its members. There is a lot of controversy discussed among the modern day polygamous groups about the leaders of the LDS church at the time backing down, or shying away from the US Government and the laws to make polygamy illegal. The LDS church fought the federal government pleading constitutional religious freedoms and the US Supreme Court held religious duties are not a defense to a criminal indictment; beliefs are protected by the Constitution, but religious practices are not. Reynolds v. US, 98 U.S. 145 (1878).
This is where things get ambiguous for the LDS church and whether they are seen as one of the polygamous groups. As a whole, the church has ceased the practice of polygamy, but the LDS church's website states it still believes polygamy is a religious principle.
"Latter-day Saints sincerely desired to be loyal citizens of the United States, which they considered a divinely founded nation. But they also accepted plural marriage as a commandment from God and believed the court was unjustly depriving them of their right to follow God’s commands." (LDS.org, n.d.)
Furthermore, the LDS church's website states a man is allowed to be sealed to more then one wife, so long as only one wife is living, and suggests there could be a time that the Lord declares and authorizes a polygamous marriage.
"Notably, the Manifesto does not preclude any worthy man who has been sealed to a wife now deceased from being sealed to another, living spouse. The foregoing is consistent with the revealed doctrine that monogamy is the Lord’s standard for marriage unless He declares and authorizes otherwise through His duly appointed representative, meaning the President and prophet of the Church." (LDS.org, n.d. 2)
Of course, the LDS church also openly excommunicates anyone who practice polygamy here on earth. It openly speaks out to distance itself from the modern day polygamous groups. However, because of the LDS church's gospel beliefs in polygamy, it can be confusing for the lay person to understand the distinctions between modern polygamous groups and the modern LDS church. If polygamy were to become legal in the United States it is unclear whether the LDS church will take up this practice again. These can all be reasons that people put the LDS church in the same basket with the modern polygamous churches and groups because the LDS church has not made a clear stand on its beliefs and practice with polygamy.
Moreover, this is where many of the modern polygamous groups get their reasoning to continue the practice of polygamy in hiding. The varying polygamous groups teach different specifics about the Mormon LDS church leaders backing down from the government in the 1800s. It is a common belief among the polygamous groups that their members are living the "higher laws of God" that the mainstream Mormon/LDS are too afraid to live out of fear of prosecution.
The issue is too complex to dissect in this article, but be aware the mainstream LDS/Mormon church does not practice polygamy here on earth. It teaches the practice of polygamy is not necessary for exaltation, and it excommunicates members who do engage in this practice. (LDS.org, n.d. 2) Lastly, they do not like to be coupled with the practicing modern day polygamous groups because they are very different groups of people.
LDS.org. (n.d.) The Manifesto and end of plural marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/topics/the-manifesto-and-the-end-of-plural-marriage?lang=eng
Pierce, S. D. (2018). A&E’s biography of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs confuses FLDS with LDS. Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.sltrib.com/artsliving/tv/2018/02/18/aes-biography-of-polygamist-leader-warren-jeffs-confuses-flds-with-lds/