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

The teenage boys often spiral downward into drugs, alcohol and homelessness exactly the hell that the religion predicted would befall them if they failed to subscribe to its teachings.

"I bid thee farewell," is what Ladell Pipkin, 26, said the late Prophet Rulon Jeffs told him when he was ordered to leave town a few years ago.

Pipkin is one of 37 children. His father was 54 when he married Pipkin's mother at age 19. She was one of five wives.

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.

New Times found Pipkin living out of his decrepit SUV on an empty lot in north Phoenix. Covered with scabs and pulling hair from his face, he appeared strung out on crystal meth.

Pipkin could barely put together a sentence. But paperwork in his possession showed he had graduated from Colorado City High School in 1995, before being sent on his way.

Anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop assisted Pipkin, getting him enrolled at Teen Challenge, a youth treatment center. The young man disappeared January 5, after leaving a disturbing, handwritten letter on his bed.

"Please help me," the letter begins. "It's just to [sic] darn late, Ladell. You have messed up everybody's life. You are a mass murderer. You are just like a Hitler. Just what in the world were you thinking when you tried to challenge God? You have killed so darn many people."

He then expresses regret at how many chances he had to pull his life together, including a second baptism. "I should just commit suicide right on the spot. I am damned for all eternity for ever and ever."

Phoenix police found Pipkin six weeks later wandering downtown streets, disheveled and disoriented. Pennie Peterson said she picked him up from police and arranged to have him sent to St. George, Utah, to live with an uncle.

"He stunk so bad I had to put a blanket down over the seat of the car," Peterson said. "His brain was gone."

Dissenters Evicted

Julia Thomas had a beautiful herb and flower garden around her Colorado City home.

It was a home she had built with her own hands, much to the dismay of religious leaders who don't like women displaying such independence.

She loved her little spot on Earth as much as she cherished the fundamentalist Mormon creed.

"I made a covenant a long time ago that I would give my life to the gospel," Thomas said. "I'm doing it."

The 70-something Thomas has more than 70 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. During her lifetime in Colorado City, she has seen tumultuous events in her religion. But nothing like the split that occurred 20 years ago.

At that time, a battle emerged over whether a council of seven men should lead the FLDS, or whether all power should rest with one.

Thomas opted for the council of seven, but her side lost the battle when former Prophet Leroy Johnson assumed control of the FLDS in 1984.

The congregation in Colorado City has been ruled by a single man ever since. After Uncle Leroy came the Jeffses, Rulon and then Warren. Those who had opposed one-man rule soon found themselves in trouble, even if they were still faithful to the religious doctrine.

Like many FLDS faithful, Thomas had built her home on United Effort Plan property under the assumption that she could remain as long as she wished. But soon after Rulon Jeffs assumed power in 1986, the religion notified everyone living on UEP land that they were "tenants at will" and could be evicted.

Many in the community were shocked. Eventually, 21 people filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to retain title to the homes they had paid for and built on the land.

Led by a handful of activists, including Ben Bistline, the suit cost plaintiffs more than a million dollars and dragged on for more than a decade. A Utah state court judge finally ruled that the UEP could not evict plaintiffs from their homes, unless they paid fair market value for them. Once the homeowner died, the judge ruled, the land and home would revert to the UEP.

After the suit was settled, the UEP tightened language in its charter and resumed evictions against anyone who was not in "harmony" with the Prophet.

Lenore Holm quickly found herself out of favor in August 2000, when she protested the planned spiritual marriage of her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole, to a 39-year-old man as his second wife.

The UEP immediately sought to evict Holm and her children from the Colorado City home that she and her husband, Milton, were building. The 39-year-old Lenore has 14 children nine were still in the parents' care.

Rather than turning over the property, which most people do when it is demanded by the UEP, Lenore Holm chose to fight the eviction in Mohave County Superior Court. The case is pending, and the Holms remain in the house. But Lenore's 16-year-old moved in with the man, and the couple were married soon after she turned 18.

As for the elderly Thomas, who is divorced and was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, she wound up getting evicted from the home she had paid for and built.

"They gave me three days' notice to leave," she said.

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My Voice Nation Help
2 comments
Lydia
Lydia

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..

Ken
Ken

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 is.it 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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