Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Intro: Polygyny, Membership purge
About polygyny in the FLDS:
There are many North American laws on the books which criminalize group or
However there has been an apparent lack of will on the part of state and
provincial governments to actually prosecute offenders. There are some
indications that this situation may change soon in
British Columbia, Canada.
According to Fact-Index.com:
"The [FLDS] church teaches plurality of wives as a
general requirement for the highest eternal salvation of men. It is
generally believed in the church that a man should have [a minimum of] three wives to
fulfill this requirement. Critics of this belief say that its practice leads
unavoidably to bride shortages and likely to child marriages, incest, and
child abuse. The church currently practices 'The Law of Placing' under which
all marriages are assigned by the prophet of the church. Many outside of the
church, and some inside, view this practice as unduly authoritarian though
it helps address by edict the problem of wife shortages. Under the Law of
Placing, the prophet elects to give or take wives to or from men according
to their worthiness." 1
Typically, the husband will have only his first
marriage registered with the state. Subsequent wives receive only a religious
marriage that are not registered. These "sister wives" present themselves as
single women and apply for welfare. This is known as "bleeding the beast" -- the
beast being the government.
Wikipedia reports that Roulon T Jeffs, the second leader of the group, is
alleged to have had 22 wives and more than 60 children. 2 Adams
wrote that the current leader, Warren Jeffs:
"...is estimated to have around 40 wives, at least a dozen of
whom were formerly married to his father, and about 56 children. Most of his
time is spent managing church affairs, but he also is described as an
Under "The Law of Placing," Jeffs decides which woman marries which man in
the FLDS community; he also has power to forcibly divorce a couple at any time.
Marrying so many
wives of his late father would produce some complex family relationships. A
person can be one's half-brother one day and one's step-father on the next day.
Women living under Muslim laws (WLUML) have discussed the implications of
patriarchal polygyny on women within a number of excommunicated Mormon
denominations which have broken away from the LDS church:
"Women and girls who have fled polygamous families report that religious
teachings emphasize their duty to submit to the authority of their fathers,
husbands, and male religious leaders, and make spiritual salvation contingent on
polygamy. The religious teachings of these polygamous groups and the closed
nature of their communities create conditions in which women and girls are
especially vulnerable to violence, coercion, and abuse."
cases indicate a pattern of child marriage, sexual abuse and
trafficking, in which girls from the ages of 13 to 16 have been married to older
men and girls are being trafficked to Canada for marriage to polygamous men in
British Columbia. Adult women have also described battering, intimidation and
sexual abuse within polygamous families. Young women inside these communities
are vulnerable to coercion by family members and religious leaders to enter
polygamous marriages. Trained to obey religious teachings and denied any other
education, they may see no real alternative."
[There are] "...reports indicating
that girls in polygamous groups are frequently removed from the public school
system by age 11 or 12. Utah and Arizona officials say they lack the legal
authority to monitor whether children removed from schools are being taught in
their communities or the qualifications of people who may be providing
instruction. Access to books, magazines, radio, television and other information from
the outside world is cut off. In addition, many polygamous
families live in conditions of poverty, and lack adequate health care and
In an article on Islamic and Christian
fundamentalism, the United Methodist Women quote part of the WLUML
report and conclude that:
"This practice creates conditions for women where they are vulnerable to
violence, coercion and abuse."
Author Monte Paulsen, writing in Mother Jones
magazine, estimates that, in the FLDS: "Women reportedly bear an
average of 10 children each." Jenny Larson is a former member of the FLDS
but has since left the group and helps other women escape. She is reported as
"It's a cult is what it is. They tell you
who to marry, what to wear. People there are so brainwashed, they're like
puppets. The leader says 'frog,' and they jump. It's unreal."
young women who have escaped the group, she is reported as saying:
"It's hard not to help when they come knocking on your door. They
don't know how to cope. They have no money and no skills." 6
Benjamin Bistline spent part of his childhood among
polygynists in Short Creek, AZ -- now called Colorado City. He has written a
book about his experiences. 7 He has observed that:
Older men are urged to take child brides
before the girls are attracted to boys of their own age.
Male youths are driven out of the community so
as to leave a surplus of females.
Plural wives are expected to apply for
government assistance as single mothers.
Men who lose favor with the leader are often
evicted from their homes. Their wives and children are reassigned to another
man or men.
Members are afraid to disobey the leader,
because they fear they will lose their salvation. 6
Polygyny in the FLDS from a child's perspective:
"Kathy" published her story in Today's Christian Woman magazine:
"I was one of 13 children raised by our father and three mothers in a
polygamist community in Utah. We were fundamentalist Mormons who practiced
the original teachings of Mormonism from its founder Joseph Smith. This
teaching includes following the Principle, which states a man must
practice polygamy -- marrying at least three
wives -- to enter the Celestial Kingdom."
"Even though I knew which woman was my biological mother, we were encouraged
to treat all the wives the same. Outwardly, our family seemed content, but
beneath the surface lay jealousy and pain. We never acknowledged these
feelings because we were supposed to sacrifice our emotions. Even laughter
"We [children] were constantly told to 'keep sweet' and that 'perfect
obedience produces perfect faith.' Behind these sugary slogans lay the
impossible duty of living in complete obedience to the Prophet.
In Fundamental [Church of Jesus Christ of] Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the
Prophet is the earthly leader and mediator between God and man. Women are on
this earth to serve their husband and obey the Prophet. If a woman does this
faithfully, her husband may invite her to join him in the Celestial Kingdom.
A woman's eternal fate depends on keeping this Principle. ...
The Prophet is in charge of the Placement of young girls in marriage. The
quality of her Placement depends on her level of sweetness. Knowing this, I
tried very hard to live in obedience. At age 14, I began sewing my wedding
dress in anticipation of my Placement. I hoped I'd like my future husband,
but I feared my fate would be like those who never knew love. 9
Brooke Adams, a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, reported on a purge of the membership during 2004:
"A trickle of expulsions turned into a stream in January when Jeffs ousted some of
the community's most prominent and long-standing members, calling into question
their standing here and in the afterlife. Ever the school principal, Jeffs has
told men he has cast out to provide a list of their spiritual failings to see if
they match up with transgressions revealed to him by the Lord. Wives and
children have been separated from husbands and fathers; parents and children,
brothers and sisters have ended up on different sides of this theological
divide. Many are accepting these familial rearrangements in perfect obedience,
believing their salvation depends on it. ' There has
been so much conflict and needless turmoil and sorrow that has been put on
families in the name of religion,' said a woman associated with the Canadian
branch of the FLDS church. 'Kids who used to play with their next-door neighbors
aren't allowed to do that and are saying nasty things to each other when
they meet across the fence, like, "Your father is going to
Wikipedia reports that about 20 men were excommunicated in the 2004-JAN
purge. Their marriages were cancelled, and their wives and children were
redistributed among other FLDS men. 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.