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

It was the beginning of a journey of physical, spiritual and mental abuse that took Ruth Stubbs to the brink of suicide.

At the time, the outlook was far brighter for Holm. He was on his way toward becoming a god in fundamentalist Mormon heaven, having acquired the crucial third wife.

He had had sexual intercourse with a girl half his age who was not his legal wife a felony in Arizona and Utah but that fact made no difference to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).

Polygamous wedding: Rodney Holm is joined 
by (from left) his first wife Suzie Stubbs, new bride Ruth Stubbs and second wife Wendy Holm. In the foreground (from left) is FLDS Bishop Fred Jessop, the late Prophet Rulon Jeffs and the current Prophet Warren Jeffs.
Polygamous wedding: Rodney Holm is joined by (from left) his first wife Suzie Stubbs, new bride Ruth Stubbs and second wife Wendy Holm. In the foreground (from left) is FLDS Bishop Fred Jessop, the late Prophet Rulon Jeffs and the current Prophet Warren Jeffs.
Colorado City historian Benjamin Bistline says the FLDS uses extortion to obtain child brides.
John Dougherty
Colorado City historian Benjamin Bistline says the FLDS uses extortion to obtain child brides.

State Inaction

Ruth Stubbs is among scores of teenage girls, many of whom are underage, who have been married by fundamentalist Mormon prophets into polygamy in recent years. The tally reaches hundreds of girls over the last seven decades.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office has compiled a list of more than 40 teenage girls it suspects have been coerced into polygamy by the FLDS in the last decade, state records obtained by New Times through the Arizona Public Records Law show.

A few decades ago, the FLDS routinely married girls as young as 13 into polygamy. The practice still occurs from time to time, but the girls tend to be at least 15 these days.

The state has been conducting a broad grand jury investigation into polygamy in Colorado City since at least December 2000, but no arrests have been made. One reason is that state investigators have been unable to persuade polygamous wives to testify against their husbands.

Such wives, even if they wanted to cooperate with authorities, know that assisting the government would bring retaliation from their community.

In Colorado City, women, and men, risk losing their children, their homes, their livelihoods and most terrifying to fundamentalist Mormons their salvation for uttering a single negative statement about their religion.

Underage, polygamous marriages are merely a symptom of a greater problem.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Colorado City is a virtual medieval fiefdom overseen by an omnipotent Prophet who is accountable to no one but presumably God.

The FLDS is subverting a wide range of civil liberties with taxpayer assistance.

Cloaked in the legitimacy of town government and public schools, FLDS polygamists receive more than $6 million a year in public funds to support these institutions.

Through his proxies, the FLDS Prophet controls all levels of local government and the Colorado City public school board. He controls ownership of virtually all the land in town and most of the businesses. He controls local law enforcement.

But, most important, the Prophet controls the minds of the faithful, convincing them that, if necessary, they must forgo happiness in this life for eternal bliss after death.

"We don't have minds of our own," former FLDS member and Colorado City High School science teacher DeLoy Bateman told New Times. "We are taught to follow."

Nowhere else in the United States is there a state-sanctioned town that is overwhelmingly controlled by a religion whose current leader performs polygamous marriages and who himself has anywhere from a dozen to 70 wives.

The unchecked power of the leaders of this dictatorial society over the past 70 years has led to a number of illegal or unconstitutional abuses that have allowed an often cruel and demeaning culture to flourish.

A five-month New Times investigation has revealed:

• Women and children are considered property of the religious leadership, called the Priesthood, which, in turn, is controlled by the Prophet.

• More than 50 families have been ripped apart and "reassigned" to new husbands on the Prophet's command. New husbands sometimes marry the daughters of their reassigned wives.

• Many young men deemed unworthy of the Priesthood are driven out of town with police assistance so that they cannot compete with men in polygamous marriages.

• Many followers of the Prophet would kill to defend him from arrest, leading Arizona authorities to fear another Waco.

• The Colorado City town government has never had a contested election, or even a political campaign.

• The Colorado City marshal, the chief law enforcement officer in town, is a polygamist, and police routinely ignore cases where teenagers are having sex with much older men who purport to be their husbands.

• Child molestation by fathers and older brothers is common.

• The religion has created an economic collective called the United Effort Plan that controls land ownership and ruthlessly evicts women and men (and their families) accused of violating FLDS tenets.

Polygamy violates the Arizona Constitution and has been held illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court for 124 years, but that hasn't stopped the fundamentalist Mormon culture from thriving on the Arizona-Utah border.

Although Congress required Arizona to include an anti-polygamy clause in its Constitution as a condition for gaining statehood, the Legislature has never enacted a corresponding law making polygamy a crime. The glaring loophole has frustrated efforts to prosecute sexual-abuse crimes against teenage women in polygamous unions.

That there is no state statute banning polygamy may result from the Legislature's dominance by mainstream Mormons, whose founder, Joseph Smith, introduced polygamy to the Salt Lake City-based church in the 1840s. The mainstream Mormon Church officially eased away from polygamy in 1890, and now excommunicates polygamists.

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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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