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

Though Warren has assumed the mantle of power, he apparently isn't ready to let go of his father's coattails. During sermons, the faithful report, he sometimes pauses, acting as if he is listening to his father speak from the great beyond. Perhaps the younger Jeffs is keeping in such close touch with his father's ghost to quell a growing rebellion in town to his strict leadership style.

Though it may seem to the outside world like comparing prison to jail, a number of previously stalwart families in Colorado City have bolted to Canada in the last few months to join Prophet Winston Blackmore's less restrictive polygamous program.

"Warren Jeffs' philosophy of family doesn't exist," Chatwin claims. "He believes in a group commune."

Chatwin says Jeffs has told the community, "These children that you are having don't belong to you, they belong to me.' That's verbatim."

Several sources have independently recounted stories where men have confessed to Jeffs a relationship prior to marriage, or some other infraction, that has resulted in the Prophet stripping the husbands and fathers of their wives and children. In fact, more than 50 families have been busted apart, with wives and children reassigned to other men, in the last few years, records compiled by former FLDS members and turned over to the AG's Office show.

"The men are shattered," science teacher DeLoy Bateman says. Some have threatened suicide and others have suffered mental breakdowns.

It is no wonder, given that the Prophet has even been known to remarry women while they are still legally betrothed to someone else.

Unlike the spiritual marriages conducted by the FLDS, Jason Williams, 18, and Suzanne Jessop, 16, were civilly married after eloping in 1994. The couple left Colorado City after Suzanne learned that church leaders were planning to "marry her up" to someone else. They stayed out of the community for about eight months before returning as outcasts.

"Her parents wouldn't have anything to do with her because she had apostatized," Jason Williams told state investigators.

Meanwhile, two of Suzanne's sisters, 18-year-old Velva and 21-year-old Kathy, were required to marry Prophet Rulon Jeffs, who was then more than 80. Suzanne's parents soon began pressuring her to divorce Jason.

Eventually, under direct pressure from the elderly Jeffs, Suzanne filed for divorce in December 1998. The Prophet, Jason Williams later reported to AG's investigators, told him that the only way he could get back into the church would be to sign over custody of both of his children, and be rebaptized.

That Suzanne had decided she wanted to reconcile by March 1999 had no bearing on events that had already been set in motion, Jason said. "Two weeks later, they marry her to another man [as a second wife] while we were still legally married. Exactly nine months after that, she has her first child [with the new husband]."

Jason Williams has since filed a $20 million lawsuit against the FLDS in federal court after a Utah state court dismissed his case last year.

Devotion to the "principle," as polygamy is often called, inevitably leads to fanaticism.

There is a hard-core FLDS fringe, estimated by several different sources at about 10 percent of the men, who would be willing kill to protect the Prophet and the religion.

"There was a time I would have killed if asked to by the Prophet," says historian Bistline.

During their interviews with witnesses, state investigators expressed serious concern about the potential for violence in Colorado City if authorities tried to make arrests under sexual abuse laws.

"That's one thing we've been concerned about . . . Waco-effect," state investigator Ron Gibson said during the interviews with Jason Williams.

For several years, Warren Jeffs has been preaching the doctrine of "blood atonement" -- where it is the righteous person's obligation to kill a sinner to gain salvation. While rumors abound concerning the practice, there is no evidence that blood atonement has been carried out.

But there is fear that it will be applied, particularly to apostates.

"I've personally heard Warren in priesthood meeting speaking of blood atonement," Jason Williams told investigators. "That's the next step."

Jason Williams said the FLDS operates a group called Sons of Heilman that uses songs and rituals to train young combatants. Rumors of stockpiled weapons have circulated through the community for years. Jason Williams said he's been very nervous since filing his lawsuit against the FLDS.

"You're looking over your shoulder because you wonder if somebody is gonna bump you off," he said.

Stories about the Sons of Heilman and weapons caches may be apocryphal, but they are enough to terrify Lenora Spencer, who grew up in another fundamentalist Mormon group in Mexico led by Ervil Lebaron.

Blood atonement became a way of life for Lebaron and his followers. Lebaron, who died in a Utah state prison in 1981, and his followers committed 28 murders in Mexico and the United States over 20 years. The killings stemmed from a conflict between rival Mormon polygamous groups. In addition to Lebaron, 15 of his family members were sent to prison for murder, theft, racketeering and/or conspiracy.

Spencer, who has close ties to Colorado City, said the Sons of Heilman remind her of when she was a young girl, and Lebaron was training children to handle firearms. She told state investigators that if Warren Jeffs and his followers are embracing blood atonement, armed violence is a possibility.

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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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