If you're not familiar with Mormonism, you might not realize that there's a huge difference between FLDS and LDS. The LDS, or the Latter-Day Saints, comprise the vast majority of Mormons worldwide. While their conservative beliefs may be disquieting to some, they are light years away from the FLDS, or the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. Fundamentalist Mormons are a small splinter group who practice polygamy.
Aside from the fact that LDS members are not polygamous, there are a number of major differences between the two groups. For example, their leadership. FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting minors among other things and the LDS leader Thomas Monson just turned 90. Another difference? The LDS supports interracial marriage, while the FLDS finds it to be unacceptable and is therefore labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The LDS church does not want to be confused with the cultish FLDS church for reasons that are quite clear once you dive into all the serious differences between them.
FLDS Members Have More Restrictive Dress Codes
The LDS church expects its regular members to dress conservatively, avoiding tattoos, dyed hair, and revealing clothing. Guidelines for missionaries are more extensive, but do allow for significant individual style choices.
There is an official dress code for employees of the church, which has recently loosened up. Women were previously restricted to skirts and dresses and can now wear pantsuits and dress slacks if they choose.
Members of the FLDS church have a far more restrictive dress code. Women and girls wear "prairie dresses" and are forbidden to cut their hair, wear makeup, wear the colors red or black, or show any part of their bodies, including their ankles. The dress code has remained more or less the same since the 1950's.
The Two Sects Have Very Different Ideas On Racism
While many LDS members hold racist beliefs, racism is no longer an official part of the LDS doctrine. All positions within the group, including priesthood, are open to men regardless of race. Perhaps owing to a long history of racial exclusion, the current board has only a few members of color.
The LDS has a long way to go toward completely eliminating racial bias, but they're doing much better than the FLDS, who still have blatantly racist policies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has added them to their list of hate groups, due in part to their stance against interracial marriage. In a 1995 FLDS priesthood class, a teacher said the following:
"He [Cain] was cursed with a black skin and he is the father of the Negro people... He is used by the devil, as a mortal man, to do great evils… If you, young people, were to marry a Negro, you could not be a priesthood person, even if you repented. You could not stay in this work."
The FLDS's overall attitude has not appreciably changed since that time.
Neither Group Accepts LGBTQ+ People, But The FLDS Thinks That They May As Well Be Murderers
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who list the FLDS as a hate group, Warren Jeffs said the following:
"The people grew so evil, the men started to marry the men and the women married the women. This is the worst evil act you can do, next to murder. It is like murder. Whenever people commit that sin, then the Lord destroys them."
While many religious groups condemn homosexuality, most do not compare it to murder. The LDS' chastity law states that "sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife."
LDS members who experience same-sex attraction can remain in good standing with the church if they do not act on those desires. This stance is far from progressive, and it frequently forces LGBTQ+ members to choose between their identity and their community. That said, it's a far cry from comparing gay marriage to literal murder.
The FLDS Allows Its Members To Drink Coffee And Alcohol, While The LDS Does Not
You might be surprised to learn that there's anything that the FLDS is less restrictive about than the LDS (other than how many wives a man can have). Surprisingly, while members of the LDS church are not permitted to consume tea, coffee, or alcohol, FLDS members have no such restrictions. This may be because FLDS split off from the mainstream Mormon faith before the prohibitions against caffeine and alcohol were put into place.