Episode 134: Converting to Fundamentalism, an Interview with Benjamin Shaffer

Written by Lindsay Hansen Park on . Posted in year of polygamy

ben Join Lindsay as she interviews Utah attorney Ben Shaffer about why he converted to Mormon fundamentalism. Links mentioned in this podcast:

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Comments (62)

  • Benjamin Shaffer

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    I just listened to a bit of it to see how I did. I sure can ramble off topic for a long time. One thing that is super embarrassing. It sounds like I say “Corinthians” when I mean “Chronicles” I don’t know how that Freudian slip happened but I was thinking Chronicles.

    Also the Wikipedia article is only maybe 70-80% accurate, so don’t take it too seriously. We are working on making an official website soon, so look forward to us updating the links.

    Last if you want a long but still more succinct account of my story than this podcast you can read my story on our church blog:
    https://gospelfullness.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/my-story-my-testimony/

    Reply

  • Jacob C Sill

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    Thanks for sharing Benjamin!

    Reply

  • Steven Retz

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    Nice interview. Lectures on Faith is great and more people need to know about them and then study them. I agree with you the gospel and the ordinances of God do not change. It’s nice to hear your history and your thought processes.

    Did you touch God also like in 3 Nephi 11?

    Reply

  • Bob Price

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    I find it interesting that Mr. Shaffer feels that a version of the endowment was changed in the LDS church so he finds a group that practiced an older form of the endowment but not the one that Joseph Smith originally came up with. Unless the endowment includes only allowing those that practice polygamy to receive it or pouring oil over your head whilst standing in a bath tub, or cutting the marks in your breast with a knife (men and women) then he is not practicing the original endowment as Joseph Smith intended.

    Reply

  • jpv

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    Who does that now? Culterites? Whitites?

    Reply

  • Kristyn Decker

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    Current LDS, ex-polygamist and non-denominational men and women are becoming more appalled by the pervasive pro-polygamy propaganda continually being introduced to society by a few influential, self proclaimed “believers”, “feminist bloggers” and “apologists.”

    We view these “friendly” interviews of current cult members as tantamount to proselytizing for the “so called” positives of slavery, trafficking and blood atonement.

    Benjamin Shaffer seems to know his stuff. He’s a returned LDS missionary who was taught to believe in Joseph Smith’s teachings. His conversion to fundamentalism is not surprising, since 99% of converts to polygamy come from the LDS Church. Though Benjamine attained a law degree and has the ability to articulate his beliefs, much of what he’s not telling you is quite disturbing.

    He says his main reason for joining The Church of Christ, is that he is adamant about living and performing ALL of the teachings of Joseph Smith. That being said, we expect that he also believes in, and plans to follow through with Joseph Smith’s teachings of blood atonement.

    He’s been convinced by his Church members that my Uncle Rulon Allred, (deceased prophet of the Apostolic United Brethren), gave Gerald Peterson (deceased prophet of the Church of Christ), the authority to perform the original LDS temple ordinances outside of the LDS Church. Uncle Rulon was completely opposed to that happening to the very minute he died. The biggest clincher to Ben’s assumptions, is that Rulon had previously told several men and women in AUB, that he “did not have the keys or authority to the temple.” In that case he could not pass them on.

    Rulon, as well as Joseph Musser – his priesthood head, preached many times over, that fundamentalists would not receive temple ordinances until Christ returned to set things in order. All previous fundamentalist leaders preached the same. They believed the priesthood that remained in the LDS church was there to perform temple work and church functions; and that the ordination of priesthood authority outside of the LDS church was for the continuation of plural marriages–and NOTHING more.

    My father Owen Allred was second in line of priesthood authority. He and his brother Rulon were VERY close. Hardly a day went by that they didn’t discuss their religious beliefs and their perceived responsibility to help “build God’s Kingdom.” Rulon also knew, and explicitly trusted his brother Owen. He knew Owen would do whatever he wanted him to do if he told him it was God’s will. Therefore Rulon would NOT have called Gerald Peterson to any position without his own trusted priesthood counsel’s knowledge and approval. If he believed that God wanted temple work to be done outside the LDS church, he would have asked and/or commanded my father and his counsil to make it happen. It’s ridiculous to think he would need or want Gerald Peterson’s assistance or leadership.

    In fact, I remember overhearing my father and Uncle Rulon’s angst over Gerald Peterson’s, and a few other men’s “self proclaimed” authority. They were disgusted by the way Gerald lorded his proclaimed authority over some of his family members.

    I listened to a few women who were in Gerald’s family cult after they were able to escape his devious clutches. They were devastated by many of his practices and teachings. Just a few deviant practices I remember them talking about were: that he’d performed rituals to exorcise the devil from sad, depressed wives who didn’t conform to his demands. First wives are considered “soul mates” while other wives are considered mere concubines. They are required to submit to the first wife’s domain over her, her children, her needs and her wishes–including when or if her husband can spend time with, and be intimate with her.

    There are polygamy experts. They are the hundreds of men and women who were indoctrinated into polygamy and then left for many and various reasons. They are those who have written about the horrific lives they endured; and those men and women who still plan to write about theirs lives, so you will know and understand how polygamy is not about choice but coercive and destructive. These ex-polygamist survivors have lived both inside and outside of that cult-like mentality. They will continue their in-depth research about the harms of polygamy, and continue to advocate for those whom (like slaves), don’t even know they are vic
    tims. These survivors now know the differences between genuine freedom and happiness, and wish this peace and freedom for others.

    If you care about healing societies, and want to help end ongoing child abuse under the guise of religious freedom, then please read, and listen to polygamy experts who’ve experienced polygamy and know why they will never do that again.

    Reply

    • Cristina

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      This is a great interview. I know many people from this group and have been impressed with their knowledge and openness. I have also had the privilege of visiting their gathering place and meeting their current Priesthood head.

      While I am not a fundamentalist, and don’t agree with Mormon polygamy personally, I think there are better ways of addressing abuse the calling out an entire religious system on the internet. Polygamy has problems, but so does monogamy. Let’s keep that in perspective. Polygamy shouldn’t be equated with abuse. Sure, it happens, but it’s not synonymous.

      Also, Priesthood lineages are messy. I’ve heard as many negative stories about Owen as I have about Gerald Sr. Fighting over correct authority will always be a mess.

      Reply

      • Samantha

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        Cristina, the abuse in my opinion stems from the lack of rights of the children and mothers before the law. When a lawful marriage comes to an end, each parent has equal rights before a judge, where parenting time, child support, health insurance and alimony can all be determined per the state law. However, in a polygamous marriage, those multiple wives and their children never will have access to those rights under any condition. The children are considered as being born out of wedlock, many times without the father even having registered them, and the woman will never have a slight opportunity of carving out a future with herself and her children. Those women have every odd stacked against them, since they won’t have a home or the ability to get a lawyer to represent them, and will most likely end up without their children if they try to leave. This is unhealthy for everyone and control that can only be compared to slavery or a hostage situation. This is abuse of their basic human rights. Yes, it might happen in monogamous relationships as well, but those relationships at least had the opportunity to establish themselves as a legal family before the law. The polygamous families never have that opportunity.

        Reply

  • Angel Jessop

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    As a former plural wife, I have had an interesting journey making it way through these episodes. I just finished this one and was surprised to see Kristin Decker’s comments here. I believe she has traded one brand of fundamentalism for another.

    I too have lived polygamy. It wasn’t a good experience and this podcast has done a lot, more than anything else I know to show how difficult it is. Yet, for Kristin to call people’s stories propaganda shows that you can leave fundamentalism, but not change your thinking patterns. It’s so black and white (which Lindsey you have covered in a lot of your historical episodes).

    Kristin, my mother was a good woman and she had a beautiful marriage with my father and his two other wives. Was she lying to me when she said it was the greatest blessing of her life? I knew her and I don’t believe she was. I believe she truly loved her lifestyle and found pride in it. My father was also a wonderful man, living his religion the best he knew how. Not all polygamists are monsters and it seems like you want them to be for your own reasons.

    I am upset to see that because some people have a bad experience, that you would force other women to accept your view. Who does that sound like? I lived too long under prophets telling us how to think and feel and criticizing those who felt differently. I left the religion eight years ago in my heart and three years ago since. It has been very hard for me and also very freeing.

    Lindsey, you don’t know me but I listen from Canada and I think your podcast is truly beautiful. I appreciate that you tell the different stories of SO many. I appreciate the work you’ve done to break down fundamentalist thinking in not only my own life but in the lives of so many others.

    Reply

  • Kristyn Decker

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    It’s might be easier to create informed decisions about patriarchal polygamy if you HAVE lived on and experienced both sides of the fence–if you have witnessed and listened to hundreds of victims who have done the same, and then spent endless hours of research about the pros and cons. of polygamy.

    Reply

    • Leroy Jeffs

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      Krysten Decker, was your experience the only experience? It seems before reaching a conclusion, you would get input from both points of view. If we use that line of thinking, wouldn’t manogamy be bad too, cuz I can think of several people who’ve had a bad experience.

      Reply

      • Leroy Jeffs

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        Also, Lindsay had more perspective on polygamy than anyone I’ve ever met. And yes my experience with polygamy was horrible

        Reply

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