Mormons and Polygamy

Actions by law enforcement agencies in recent months have triggered increased news media attention to polygamist groups, particularly those living in southern Utah and Arizona. Too often news reports refer to these groups as "Mormons" or "Mormon sects." To make such a reference is misleading and confusing to the vast majority of audiences who rightfully associate the term "Mormon" with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Correct terminology)


Fox News (Big Story with John Gibson, 2 May 2006) — Judge Andrew Napolitano talked at length on the political risks he believed that the Utah attorney general was running by pressing for the prosecution of polygamist leaders in Utah. His comments implied that the Church and its members would be opposed to the actions of the Utah attorney general. Such an interpretation is wholly unjustified and is inconsistent with the previous comments of Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (see below).

CNN (“Sect Leader Is Hunted,” 9 May 2006) — During a report about law enforcement’s crackdown and hunt for Warren Jeffs, leader of a polygamist group, CNN superimposed the face of Jeffs over an image of the Salt Lake Temple. Again, this implies a connection between the two. This is not just careless editing, but highly offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Warren Jeffs is not and never has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Reporters’ Questions
Several reporters have called for the Church’s comment on Warren Jeffs being placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Warren Jeffs and polygamist groups have no association whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no reason why the Church would wish to comment about a legal action concerning a group with which it has no affiliation or connection.

Mormons Do Not Practice Polygamy
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued the practice of polygamy in 1890. (Read history)

In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. …

"If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church." (Read full statement)

There Is No Such Thing as a "Mormon Fundamentalist" or "Mormon Sect"
The term “Mormon” is a nickname commonly applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no such thing as a "Mormon fundamentalist," nor are there “Mormon sects." A correct term to describe these polygamist groups is "polygamist sects." The inclusion of the word “Mormon” is misleading and inaccurate.

The Associated Press Stylebook states, "The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other Latter Day Saints churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death."

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.