*The following is a letter from Elder Lance B. Wickman, General Counsel of the Church to publishers of major newspapers, TV stations and magazines. It was sent out on Tuesday, June 24, 2008.
Recent events have focused the media spotlight on a polygamous sect near San Angelo, Texas, calling itself the “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” As you probably know, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has absolutely no affiliation with this polygamous sect. Decades ago, the founders of that sect rejected the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were excommunicated, and then started their own religion. To the best of our knowledge, no one at the Texas compound has ever been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Unfortunately, however, some of the media coverage of the recent events in Texas has caused members of the public to confuse the doctrines and members of that group and our church. We have received numerous inquiries from confused members of the public who, by listening to less than careful media reports, have come to a grave misunderstanding about our respective doctrines and faith. Based on these media reports many have erroneously concluded that there is some affiliation between the two – or even worse, that they are one and the same.
Over the years, in a careful effort to distinguish itself, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone to significant lengths to protect its rights in the name of the church and related matters. Specifically, we have obtained registrations for the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” “Mormon,” “Book of Mormon” and related trade and service marks from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and corresponding agencies in a significant number of foreign countries.
We are confident that you are committed to avoiding misleading statements that cause unwarranted confusion and that may disparage or infringe the intellectual property rights discussed above. Accordingly, we respectfully request the following:
- As reflected in the AP Style Guide, we ask that you and your organization refrain from referring to members of that polygamous sect as “fundamentalist Mormons” or “fundamentalist” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- We ask that, when reporting about this Texas-based polygamous sect or any other polygamous group, you avoid either explicitly or implicitly any inference that these groups are affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- On those occasions when it may be necessary in your reporting to refer to the historical practice of plural marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that you make very clear that the Church does not condone the practice of polygamy and that it has been forbidden in the Church for over one hundred years. Moreover, we absolutely condemn arranged or forced “marriages” of underage girls to anyone under any circumstances.
Stated simply, we would like to be known and recognized for whom we are and what we believe, and not be inaccurately associated with beliefs and practices that we condemn in the strongest terms. We would be grateful if you could circulate or copy this letter to your editorial staff and to your legal counsel.
We thank you for your consideration of these important matters.
Lance B. Wickman