New Research Reveals Secrets About Psychology of Polygamous Sects and Their Leaders

Again, LDS is Latter Day Saints, embracing the possibilities of prophets among us in this latter day. It is in a culture where there is a prophet in the present day, and in which man and God communicate on a deeply personal level, that these experiences take place.

In the course of my research, I interviewed a man who has taught in fundamentalist circles who finds that he has met over a hundred people in his life who believed themselves, quite earnestly, to be the "one mighty and strong." He described it as a spiritual journey in which one is immersed and intense in the devotion of one's belief. He himself believed for a time that he was the "one mighty and strong," then backed away from what he believed to be too much a calling for him. But his and many others who assume this identity arrive to a point on a spiritual continuum in which they surrender to faith. Unless it is something else.

Q: What else could it be?

A: The power of religious ordination enables someone who is psychopathic to exploit the devout around them. How expedient a position to be a prophet, with unquestionable superiority and providence. For the wrong person, it is absolute power that corrupts absolutely.

It is always possible that part of a psychotic person's thinking is an assertion that he is one mighty and strong. However, there would have to be a history that separates that person from all of the others who have so declared themselves, undertaken unusual practices because of their announced status, yet never having aroused even a sense that they were mentally ill. The lesson is that when one meets a person who announces himself as the "one mighty and strong," you have to study far more about the person in order to draw conclusions as to whether he is devout, criminal, or mad. Or more than one of the above.

Q: You described these sects as "new religions." Can you generalize findings about other new religions to the understanding of fundamentalist LDS sects?

A: Not really. The most significant distinction between these sects and other fringe or lesser known religions is the notion that a person experiences vivid revelations and communicates directly with God. Many psychiatrists and psychologists, hearing this, would erroneously label an entire people to be mad. So a religion that does not normalize such florid experiences cannot serve as a yardstick by which fundamentalist LDS sects can be studied. One cannot apply studies of other religions to the fundamentalist LDS with any validity or reliability. This is an area of psychiatry that is sorely underdeveloped, especially when one considers the complexity of mental health issues that may attach themselves to these cases, and how many people in such sects are engaging in activities that could be prosecuted.

Q: How do polygamy sects and rejectionists align? Are rejectionists only those who challenge the mainstream Mormon faith?

A: Fundamentalists who separate themselves from the LDS also shun contact with broader society and regard it with contempt. Their teaching is disdainful of the outside world and followers are forbidden to have contact with it. But rejectionists include many who are not even Mormon.

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