Mormonism's position on the Pledge of Allegiance is complicated. The institutional Mormon Church, formally called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS, has revised its views on the Pledge throughout its history. This is because the church, which was founded in the United States, has a vexed past in relation to the country. In the beginning, government entities violently persecuted Mormons. Today, the two coexist peacefully.
The LDS and the U.S. Government Today
Contemporary Mormons tend to be quite patriotic and are known for taking pride in the fact that their religion began in the United States. Many believe the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God and that Jesus will ultimately return to the country for a final judgment. The church's major center of higher education, Brigham Young University (BYU), ranks third in graduating Army officers in the United States.
Contemporary LDS Position on the Pledge of Allegiance
Today, the Mormon Church has no objection to the Pledge of Allegiance. Another North American-born religion, the Jehovah's Witnesses, prohibits believers from saying the Pledge, insisting that allegiance belongs only to God. Mormons, however, do not oppose the Pledge and generally sanction its "under God" clause. A small number of individual Mormons opt out of the Pledge for personal reasons, but they are neither asked nor encouraged to do so by any official doctrine.
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The polygamous sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, does not sanction recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance or any other traditional patriotic American expressions. The group is an offshoot of the institutional Mormon Church that exists partly in opposition to contemporary LDS convergence with American legal norms, especially the prohibition against polygamy. The group has been at odds with government for many years, making national headlines since 2005 with the beginning of police raids motivated by child sexual abuse allegations.
History of Anti-Mormonism
The 19th-century beginnings of the LDS Church were more difficult than contemporary Mormon patriotism may reveal. The Mormons' migration to Utah was the result of repeated expulsions from states in the Midwest, where government entities refused to allow their now-abandoned practice of plural marriage. Founder Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844 during his own presidential bid. In 1857, President James Buchanan sent the military into Utah before the area became a state, partly in response to the hostile, anti-government rhetoric coming from Prophet Brigham Young. In response to what they perceived as persecution and attacks, early Mormons sometimes refrained from expressions of patriotism like the Pledge of Allegiance.
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