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

Ten days later, she filed a remarkable affidavit in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking emergency child custody. The notarized document describes horrific living conditions for herself and the 20 children in the household:

"At the age of sixteen I was pressured to marry Rodney H. Holm, under the rule of the [FLDS] church. Since that time, I have lived in a controlling and abusive environment common in the community. The sister-wives' were physically and emotionally abusive to both myself and my children. I have scars on my face from one beating. Children were beaten and locked in rooms. On several occasions, younger children would be smothered by one of the mothers until they choked or gasped for air. . . . I was required to work and leave my children with the other 18 in the care of the other two mothers."

Ruth Stubbs continued describing general conditions in the community: "Incest is common. Marriages are arranged between close relatives including stepsiblings. Wives are required to submit fully to the husband, to the extent that permission had to be granted for every move, including trips to the grocery store and doctor.

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.

"Punishment is severe for all who are disobedient, including beating, shunning and expulsion to a community in Canada for retraining. All children were removed from the public schools by Rulon Jeffs and placed in a church school for training. Children are not permitted to have education beyond the 8th grade.

"My husband' has threatened to take my children back to be raised with the other 18 children by his two other wives. He has also suggested that we give the children to the Prophet,' Warren Jeffs, to raise.

"It is not uncommon for children to be taken from their mothers by a Prophet' and transported to Salt Lake City for placement with more deserving' families.

"I fear that should my husband' be given custody or unsupervised parenting time with the children, they will be injured or otherwise harmed or that he will abscond with them and I will never see them again."

A month later, Ruth met with state AG's investigators, telling them she would cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Rodney Holm if criminal charges were filed.

But her main goal, she said, was to gain custody of her children.

She anxiously told investigators, "I do not want my kids to go back there."

Blood Atonement

Craig Chatwin has had a ringside seat in Colorado City. He was raised in a polygamous family; he is one of 30 children from three mothers. He is the third child of the second mother and the seventh child overall.

Articulate and outspoken, Chatwin parted with the church a few years ago after his first marriage ended. He has since carefully analyzed the political, economic and religious forces that keep the community together.

The religion teaches that righteous men will become gods and rule over many planets. The gods will have many, many women to use for bringing spirits forth to populate the planets.

"The woman's greatest achievement is if she can become a goddess and help her husband with the preparation of these worlds," says Chatwin, who attended many church sessions for men, called Priesthood meetings, while growing up in Colorado City.

"The only way a woman can get there is to be perfectly obedient to her husband," Chatwin says. "The only way a man get there is to be perfectly obedient to the next layer of organization in the priesthood, which in Colorado City is the Prophet."

If doubt creeps in to a fundamentalist's mind, he is taught to believe that the devil is at play and to ignore the thoughts. "Put it on the shelf," is the way the church puts it.

Time and time again, various Prophets have declared that the end of the world is certain.

Leaders claim that the righteous will be "lifted up" to the sky to hover above the town as the Lord comes through and destroys the wicked. They will then return to Earth and resume the "work" of building the kingdom of God.

When the liftoff fails to happen on schedule, the leaders explain that God has given followers more time to achieve righteousness.

Predictions of the end of the world trigger widespread fear in the community -- particularly among the young, unmarried women.

"The fear of death made me want to stay," says Jenny Kesselring, who remembers the end of the world predictions in 1997. At the time, Kesselring was a teenager struggling to decide whether to move to Salt Lake City to live with a cousin.

Many of the faithful are convinced their leaders have supernatural powers. It is generally believed that Prophets will live forever. Even as Rulon Jeffs was clearly fading from a series of strokes, religious leaders kept telling the congregation that he would soon rebound. When Jeffs finally died at 92, there was widespread shock in town.

Because he believed himself immortal, Rulon never bothered to anoint a successor Prophet. Though outwardly stunned that his father had died, Warren Jeffs kept a clear enough head to issue an edict of utmost importance:

"Don't put your hands on any of my father's women," Warren is said to have ordered in a prayer meeting before Rulon's body was cold. According to local lore, the about 70 wives were later divided among FLDS hierarchy, with Warren getting first pick as the new Prophet. Supporting Warren -- who refused to be interviewed for this story -- is said to be powerful FLDS bishop Fred Jessop, 95, who himself has about 30 wives.

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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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