Texas LDS deal with confusion

Missionaries, members feeling fallout from raid

Published: Monday, April 21 2008 2:16 a.m. MDT

Moises Andrade watches as Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries talk with church members on Sunday at the San Angelo Spanish-speaking branch in the Abilene, Texas, stake.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Shortly after the raid began on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch, a group of Mormon missionaries sat down to eat at a restaurant here.

A man shouted out "compound!"

"There was this guy. He held up a knife and yelled at us," said Elder Tyler Duffy from Orem.

Some of the fallout from the raid on the YFZ Ranch is being felt by members and missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While the FLDS Church is not connected in any way to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some Mormon faithful have said they feel they are being found guilty by association.

"There are some people here that believe anything bad about Mormons and that's what they're going to do," said Charles L. Webb, who serves as president of the Abilene, Texas, stake.

The LDS Church's presence in this part of Texas is small. The Abilene stake covers an area 25,000 square miles in size with about 3,000 members. There are only two LDS chapels in San Angelo, but a number of Baptist and other evangelical Christian churches. It's the polar opposite of Utah, where the LDS Church is the dominant faith.

In repeated statements, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have differentiated between the two faiths and expressed disappointment that some news media outlets have lumped the two together.

"Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons, do not practice polygamy and they have not practiced polygamy for over a century," Elder Quentin L. Cook, an LDS apostle, said in a video clip the church recently posted on YouTube.

The LDS Church has said there is no such thing as a "fundamentalist Mormon," although an estimated 37,000 people who practice it consider themselves as such. Fundamentalists argue that the LDS Church has strayed from its original doctrine by abandoning the practice of polygamy in 1890.

Here in the Bible belt, many LDS members have had to explain the differences in their faiths — the practice of polygamy being the chief example.

Clinton Hudson, a student at Sonora High School, is a member of a Christian student fellowship. During a lunchtime meeting, he said one student said they should pray for the children taken in the raid. Another student said they should "pray for the Mormons."

"I approached her and said, 'They're not Mormons. They're fundamentalists. They broke off from the church' and described our history and how they broke off. It really helped a lot," Hudson said Sunday. "It was a great opportunity to get them to understand there's a difference between them and us."

Not everyone is interested in hearing their explanations.

Duffy said he was speaking with a man interested in converting to the LDS Church. After the raid, the man gave them back a copy of the Book of Mormon, saying he did not want to hear from them again.

"He didn't even give us time to explain," Duffy said.

As they go door-to-door, the missionaries have had to alter their introductions a little to clarify the differences between the two faiths.

"We're not from the church in Eldorado, but we share this message," said Elder Nicolas Librandi, from Murray.

Some have lashed out at the missionaries, blaming polygamy and allegations of child-bride marriages on the LDS Church. But some say there is more interest in the mainstream church, and its message.

"The purposes of God won't be frustrated," said Elder Ryan Bartley, from Carmichael, Calif.

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