Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

For decades the state has let a feudal colony of fundamentalist Mormons force underage girls into illegal polygamous marriages

Sixteen-year-old Ruth Stubbs wanted to marry the boy down the street.

So she revealed her desire to a religious leader, a man held in the highest esteem in her rural, isolated community straddling the Arizona-Utah border.

On a December morning four years ago, Ruth sought the advice of the Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 88-year-old Rulon Jeffs.

Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.
John Dougherty
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.

Ruth asked the stroke-ridden Jeffs for permission to marry Carl Cooke, a young man she had been seeing secretly for several months.

Jeffs pondered the question for a moment and then delivered a startling pronouncement.

"Well," Jeffs said, gesturing toward Rodney Holm, a police officer who had escorted Ruth to the meeting, "I feel she belongs to you."

Ruth was stunned, but not surprised. She barely knew Holm, but what she did know was disturbing.

At 32, Holm was twice her age.

And Rodney was already married to two women, one of whom (his first wife) is Ruth's sister, Suzie.

"Shocked, I was," Ruth told investigators from the Arizona Attorney General's Office, after relating the story of her meeting with Jeffs.

But Ruth knew such marriages were common among fundamentalist Mormons, particularly in the towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

In the dusty, unkempt hamlets north of the Grand Canyon and south of Zion National Park along the boundless Arizona Strip, life is controlled by a theocracy seemingly as impenetrable as the jagged El Capitan Peak that provides a dramatic backdrop for roughly 6,000 inhabitants.

The fundamentalists in control believe that their patriarchal society embracing polygamy ensures the people in their realm of reaching heaven's highest echelon. As incredible as it may seem to outsiders, they believe that men faithful to the religious doctrine will become gods and rule over a multitude of planets for eternity. Their wives if the husbands deem them worthy will join them in heaven as goddesses.

This fundamentalist theology is similar to that of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The difference is that the Mormon Church publicly moved away from polygamy in 1890, although some of its leaders continued the practice into the 20th century. The mainstream church does, however, still believe in polygamy in the afterlife.

With only a sixth-grade education and little experience beyond her rural upbringing, Ruth already was deeply entrenched in polygamy. Her father had three wives, and she is one of 42 children.

Ruth also knew that most of the people in town believed the old man sitting in front of her was the most powerful man on Earth. The fundamentalist Mormons hold that their Prophet is God's only true representative.

No one dared question the decisions of the Prophet in Colorado City. To do so would bring swift ruin and eternal damnation.

Ruth quickly agreed to the sudden change in grooms.

"I just said, 'kay, you know, I'll, I'll do it," she told state investigators in January 2002 according to a 56-page transcript of the interview obtained by New Times. Ruth Stubbs declined to be interviewed for this article.

There was little time for Ruth to ponder the decision. Her wedding to a man she had never kissed, let alone dated, was scheduled for the next day, December 11, 1998.

"They didn't want me to think it over," she told state investigators.

This is not to say she didn't have second thoughts. She tried to postpone the wedding for several weeks, but her sister who wanted Ruth to join the family to help her in a power struggle with the other wife pressured Ruth to move forward.

"Suzie told me I was an asshole" for wanting to delay the marriage, Ruth said. "Suzie told me that the town, the whole town, already knew I was supposed to marry Rod."

To back out now would bring unbearable social repercussions in a community where the women are raised to obey men without question.

"I was afraid of the town," Ruth admitted.

The next day, with Carl sequestered by his family, Ruth went to the Prophet's massive home, which sheltered at least a dozen some say upward of 70 of his own wives. She was joined by Holm and his two wives.

Rodney Holm had already secured permission to marry Ruth from her polygamous father although her mother hated the idea. Neither parent was allowed at the wedding.

If they had been there, they would have seen their daughter in a delusional state.

"I felt when I got up there that it was going to be Carl instead of Rod," Ruth recounted to investigators. "'Cause I've watched movies like that. I was really dreamy."

But Carl never appeared, and 16-year-old Ruth Stubbs was "sealed" to her 32-year-old brother-in-law by the Prophet in a "spiritual" ceremony. No marriage certificate was issued. Ruth had no right to community property. Even death was not to part them. Ruth was to be Rodney's possession for eternity.

Her marriage wasn't the only one conducted that day by the Prophet.

"At the time, [he was] marrying four or five couples a day," Ruth told the Attorney General's Office.

That evening, Rodney Holm took Ruth to the area's only motel the Mark Twain Inn in Hildale where his marriage to the virgin bride was consummated.

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Ken, (with regards to your comment on Apr 20th, 2008, 07:50)

I don�t believe what you suffered had anything to do with God; it�s a power struggle being fought by the truly weak and unstable inhabitants of this word, desperately trying to convince themselves of their self-righteousness when it�s so plain to see all they want is to be impervious to our laws and poke fun at morality. These people could sit in front of a mirror and look themselves in the eye and truly believe what they are doing is correct, like the saying �as happy as a pig in s**t� these creatures have never been educated to question, just to accept without question, so have no comparison. As for taking your own life, would you hang yourself in a barn cos the pigs got in the shit again?

What I�m trying to say is that you have broken away from that way of life, as you understood it be wrong, despite the fact it was the way you were raised, so you must see you are a very special, insightful and strong willed person to go against your family, your blood, and do what is obviously right and moral in this very corrupt world, this world needs more people like yourself to stand up for what is write, no matter what the consequences, don�t deprive the world..


Living without freedom.

Being born into the Polygamist Cult,FLDS Headquarter at the time was colorado city AZ, Being a child of the Black Family, knowing of others that have left (My couple of Uncles), that joined Satan and the evil people, outsiders the Gentiles as they were called,

It just meant that we would have to make up for the wrong that we had done to the community by being Pure and doing everything that the only proffit of god told us, even if it meant Killing anyone that he had asked us to even our parrents or brothers.

This life was just a test, a test to see if we are ready to Join Jesus in heaven, To build up the kingdom of heaven we need children and wives to bring with us in the afterlife, there are three levels of heaven and to be on the highest level where Jesus is then we need 3 wives, God knows when it is time for us to have children when girls can have children then they must have a child every 11 months and we will follow there cycles so we know when the time is right.

I felt bad for the Gentiles, Asking my Father "Is it fair that they are going to hell?" and the answer was well they might have another Chance but a new world will have to be built but God did that in 6 days so anything is possible.

Then he would add but since you have been chosen by god to be a part of Zion then if you were to leave then God would through your soul into the melting pot of Hell, where you would no longer exist in the afterlife,

I asked allot of questions wich was not good it meant that the evil spirit as my grandma taught me was doubting my faith in God (blind faith),

I remember being punished as a Child, Water torture was the method used by my grandma, I remember her water boarding my younger Brothers, to the point of breaking there spirit (spanking them then runing water over there face from the kitchen sink) , Grandma would say that the young toddlers were susceptible to evil spirits entering there bodies and that by doing this they would leave, Then as we got older around 9 or so she would change the methods of purifying our bodies by as she would say "Shocking the Devil out of us" throwing ice water in our face and making me angry at what point I would run as she would have my Cousins chasing me with water around the Yard and running away.

Remembering why I hate my brothers, I was always active when I was younger, running ect. my grandma would resort to giving me enema's as a form of discipline, she would ask my older brothers was (me) good when I was gone? and they would say nope, I would be like please don't lie, (They would mock me saying how does it feel to have water up my butt?)and laugh at me and my grandma would administer the water to the point I could not hold, crying the whole time, I would talk to my parents, and they would never listen. even to this day,

My mom says that grandma was just trying to help me and I was probly sick. no I was not sick my family was and has been 5 years since I have talked to my family, My dad is dead and my family is living to the best of there ability.

It has been 15 years since being kicked out by my Mom and I was 16 at the time and I still feel sad, Should I have just taken my life when I was younger, so much pain and unhappiness in the name of God.

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