Worried that they are being tarred "with the same brush" that is tainting the Fundamentalist LDS Church, another polygamous sect is speaking out about its beliefs.
The Bluffdale-based Apostolic United Brethren issued a statement from its leadership on Tuesday, distancing itself from the southern Utah-based FLDS Church. The AUB said polygamy is one of its basic tenets, but said it strongly differs in many beliefs from the FLDS Church that has come under scrutiny lately.
"We are, and always have been, wholly opposed to abuse and oppression of any kind, and we feel it our duty to promptly report any suspected abuse to the proper law enforcement authorities," AUB leaders said in the statement.
"We do not encourage or permit 'child-bride' marriages or arranged marriages. Instead, it is a fundamental principle of our faith that it is the sacred privilege of all, male and female, when they are adequately mature, to choose whom they will marry. Forced, arranged, or assigned marriages are not a part of our belief or practice."
The statement is in response to publicity surrounding the raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch, which has resulted in hundreds of children being placed in state protective custody. It also seeks to quell fears in Sanpete County, where the group has recently purchased nearly 900-acres near the town of Mt. Pleasant.
"This is not a compound," Drew Briney, an attorney for the AUB, said Tuesday. "This is just going to be a community."
The AUB has similar communities in the Salt Lake Valley, Juab County, Montana, Wyoming and Mexico. Like other polygamous groups, the AUB (also known as the Allred group) broke away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS Church no longer practices polygamy and excommunicates those who do. The mainstream LDS Church has said there is no such thing as a "fundamentalist Mormon" although the AUB leaders said they consider themselves as such, following the doctrine founded by Joseph Smith.
The AUB is currently led by J. Lamoine Jensen, who succeeded Owen Allred upon his death in 2005 at the age of 91. Allred took over the church after his brother, Rulon, was murdered by followers of rival polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron in 1977.
While other polygamous groups have maintained a low-profile, the AUB has been surprisingly open about its beliefs. In 1998, Owen Allred called a news conference to denounce abuses within polygamy. He also wrote letters to newspapers and the Utah Legislature to praise efforts to raise the marriage age in the state from 14 to 16. He pledged the group would adhere to all laws - with the exception of the practice of polygamy.
The AUB's statement notes that the FLDS Church broke off from the Allred group - but criticizes the Texas raid.
"Although we have not had any affiliation with the FLDS for nearly 60 years due to some of these very issues, we are nevertheless deeply concerned that Texas state agencies have violated God given and constitutional rights of the FLDS community at the YFZ Ranch contrary to principles and freedoms that iconic America stands for," the statement said. "The investigation of alleged criminal activity should not lead to the unnecessary suffering of innocent babies, toddlers, and older children - there are better and more responsible ways to solve this problem."