What Mormon Fundamentalism Shares with Pornography
Mauss received minor criticism in one LDS review, focusing on the definition used. Mauss's "definition used for fundamentalism strays from standard LDS usage." Indeed? But where has this LDS usage been standardized and by whom? "Rather than referring to groups espousing polygamy, Mauss defines Mormon fundamentalists as those believing in scriptural inerrancy, salvation by grace, authoritarian leadership, and strict obedience to pastoral injunctions. Using this definition, he cites the use of a lay clergy, a movement toward centralized management, the turnover in the First Presidency, the reaction to a new class of intellectuals, and the disproportionate conversion of southerners as sources for this rise in fundamentalism."
Yet other Mormons in "apologetic" circles such as The Maxwell Institute (née FARMS) and FAIR seem to have adopted a definition similar to Mauss. A search of the MI website turns up many references to "fundamentalists" and the vast majority of these are talking about Protestants, Evangelicals, or similar mindsets among LDS. Among the FAIR group (where I participate on the internal email list) the term is sometimes used off-handedly, such as in the phrase "fundamentalist mind-set," which apparently means something like a rigid black-and-white worldview, belief in prophets and scripture that are practically infallible (lip service is often paid to fallibility as set forth in the scriptures or various statements by Joseph Smith, but to paraphrase, "we know they never really make any mistakes in anything important"), and a general opposition to non-LDS sources of knowledge, whether scientific or otherwise.
Around the large LDS blogs, fundamentalism has received attention in several ways. One excellent post with good comments comes from Ziff at Zelophehad's Daughters, in which he invokes Mauss and Hinckley, wrestles with definitions, and laments that, "in the Mormon context, the word ‘fundamentalist' has come to be almost synonymous with ‘polygamous.'"
In response to President Hinckley's statement, "There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist,'" Ziff points out that "This is true, but only if we take ‘Mormon' as referring only to members of the LDS Church and ‘fundamentalist' as referring only to polygamists. When we define both terms more broadly, then President Hinckley's statement is no longer true."
One commenter pushes back against Mauss's definition of fundamentalism, apparently regarding it as pejorative in most contexts. "I don't like any implication that scriptural literalism or traditional gender roles are the fundamentals of the religion. Second I think the term lacks precision. Is it clear which beliefs are fundamentalist and how often they occur together? Why not say scriptural literalist or advocate of prophetic infallibility or whatever else is really meant in each instance? Finally, I don't hear many LDS looking to self-identify as fundamentalist. If popular usage continues (what I perceive as) its trend towards treating fundamentalist as a synonym for crazy or criminal, I think the descriptor will be an even tougher sell." In a later post, Ziff suggests scriptural literalism as a general synonym for fundamentalism.