Fundamental Law

Last year I posted a piece on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints fugitive Lyle Jeffs. The occasion for my venturing into this sect was that Jeffs’ lawyer, after Jeffs had escaped house arrest claimed the Rapture was responsible for his disappearance. Now that an unraptured Jeffs has been recaptured, I begin to wonder about the special immunity of lawyers. Surely Jeffs’ attorney knew that his client hadn’t been spirited to heaven in the fictional escapade we all know as the Rapture. Indeed, all criminal lawyers—or at least most—know the facts behind a case before they step into the courtroom. While their witnesses are guilty of perjury if they lie under oath, lawyers, through careful wording, are permitted to insinuate the opposite of the truth with no hint of wrong-doing. It’s just their job.

Legalism and religion go hand-in-hand. After an interesting preamble, the Bible begins by laying down the Torah. Among its stipulations is not bearing false witness. But then, that was before the modern legal system. Religions tend to serve as moral compasses—and that’s the phrase that’s frequently used. A compass helps to find direction, ensures that we go the right way. What exactly the right way is can be a matter of debate, however. It all depends on where it is we want to go. When religious law, such as polygamy among Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, and civil law (generally recognizing one spouse at a time) clash, lawyers debate with the comfort of knowing they need not be accountable for the truth.

I’m no legal expert—in fact, I wouldn’t even have known about this had not a friend sent me the piece by Ruth Graham on Slate—but the question does trouble me. Religion is often all about laws. Specialists in Islam are called jurists, and in Judaism rabbis know the Torah inside out. Religious laws sometimes—often, actually—conflicts with the laws of the land. Believers either accommodate the differences or get into trouble in the secular courts. It’s headline news when religious law becomes civil law in this modern day and age. Isn’t there something cynical, however, when a lawyer pleads the Rapture as probable cause for a disappearance? Knowing the law, they need not reveal the truth they know. And yet, if you personally implicate any wrongdoing in another you can be sued for liable or slander. Lyle Jeffs wasn’t in heaven. He was living out of his car, keeping off the grid. Of course, following religious law can be like that some times.

Behind Left Behind

Now that September’s here, we can begin thinking back over the summer, scratch our heads, and say “huh?” We’ve been so blinded by the Trump that we haven’t had time to reminisce over what’s been happening fundamentally. I mean among the Fundamentalists. This summer Timothy LaHaye went to his reward, followed this week by Phyllis Schlafly. I’m sure they’re basking in an all white, straight, and Protestant Heaven. For those of you unfamiliar with LaHaye’s name, you’ll know his fruits. The Left Behind series was his brainchild and many other aspects of this not-yet-raptured world spun from his squeaky-clean mind. He and Ms. Schlafly spent their lives telling others how to be good. I’m sure their only regret is that they won’t be here to be raptured away so they can see the look on the rest of our faces. No matter, they’ve gone to a better place.

Also this summer Lyle Jeffs, another sort of Fundamentalist, also disappeared. Under arrest for some suspected crime or other, Jeffs escaped from the FBI by worming out of an ankle monitor. His attorney, however, has suggested that Jeffs was raptured instead. Come to think of it, that could explain these other disappearances as well. It’s a regular Bermuda Triangle of Fundamentalists, it seems. The rapture is the ultimate excuse because the Almighty can trump any suit, any hand. Maybe they all just wanted to get off the earth before this fall’s elections. Fundamentalism, it seems, is missing from the political docket this year. Whereas since I’ve been able to vote candidates have been raising issues of concern to the more right-wing contingent, this year the fundies seem to have vanished. Maybe the rapture did occur after all.


You see, I’ve read enough of the scenarios to know that those left behind are always confused. They don’t believe in a rapture and the missing people are only part of the problem. Things are going awry (again, look at the politics and differ!). What will life be like in this post-rapture world? How will we survive with our conscience gone? All things considered, it’s going pretty well. Missing the rapture was one of my greatest childhood fears. Like all good Fundamentalists I assumed I wouldn’t be deemed worthy of that first reaping. I’d be left to suffer through tribulation and, hopefully, beyond that salvation might lie. LaHaye and Schlafly got out before the action started. Lyle Jeffs, his lawyer suggests, did too. The FBI found olive oil all over the ankle tag and, perhaps, the signs of a struggle. I’ve watched enough movies to know that when someone is raptured, however, all their clothes are left behind. The only way mortals ever face the Almighty is naked as the day they were born again.