“Fundamentalism” is a word that gets attached to extreme religious movements. The news talks about fundamentalist Islam, like the Taleban. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have even embraced the word.
The defining value of fundamentalism is giving up the personal responsibility one has of making moral judgments. Fundamentalism is about handing over your moral compass to someone else.
In contrast, most reasonable people, when introduced to a moral or religious precept ask, “Does this make sense? Is this a good idea?” A fundamentalist believer bypasses that step of personal responsibility to judge the precept. Instead of asking, “Is this good?” he or she asks, “Was this spoken by an authority? If so, it must be true.”
Fundamentalism isn’t always religious in nature. Fanatical political movements, like the fascist parties of seventy years ago, are founded on those same principles. Any mass movement whose leaders’ directives cannot be questioned is, essentially, fundamentalist.
The LDS church is sometimes accused of being a fundamentalist religion. Is it? No, not at its heart. The church was founded and preached on the principles of reason; baptism for the dead, separate degrees of glory, heavenly parents — all of these have been taught on the basis that they make sense. It makes sense that God would provide salvation to all his children, even those who died without hearing the gospel. It makes sense that the afterlife is more than just one great heaven and one great hell. It makes sense that we have a Father and Mother who are, in some way, like our earthly parents.
Throughout the history of our church, our general authorities have counseled us against blind faith, and to receive their counsel with prayer and wisdom. However, the general membership of the church does sometimes manifest a fundamentalist undercurrent. We, as church members, can make more of our leaders than they make of themselves. When accusations of fundamentalism, fanaticism, or zealotry are leveled against us as church members, it is our ability to navigate between obedience and reason that proves those accusations true or false.