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

There is nothing more important in the fundamentalist Mormon world than obedience.

Martin had to obey the religious doctrine that he dominate his wife.

"He told me he did it because he wanted to own me," Pamela says. "He wanted to prove that I belonged to him."

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.

Her husband expressed some backhanded regret for his hard-line stance.

"He told me later that he would never do that – to his next wife," Pamela says.

From that moment on, Pamela says, she put on a "mask" in public as the happy, dutiful wife. She adopted the "keep-sweet" mantra that the religion pounds into women's heads.

Privately, with nowhere to turn, her emotions burst forth in uncontrollable fits. Her children suffered immensely.

"The children witnessed a very angry mother," she says.

Eventually, the outbursts became known to religious leaders, and pressure was directed toward Martin to divorce her.

"I knew I was in trouble," she says. "They were taking my kids away. They were taking everything from me because I would not submit.

"I was reading books that were not allowed. I've been taught all my life that Buddha was the devil. I really wanted to learn about other cultures."

The more she rebelled, the more the system ground on her at every turn. The FLDS assault on her free will, she says, constituted "soul murder."

Pamela's rebellion was costing Martin his shot at the highest levels of heaven. He wasn't going to get another wife if he couldn't control the one he had.

The couple traveled to Laughlin, Nevada, on a trip arranged by town officials to finalize the divorce. But something strange happened. On a walk along the banks of the Colorado River, they talked, and after a passionate night, they reconciled.

"It was one of our best moments," she recalls, saying they felt as if they were rebelling against decades of repression. "We felt like kids again."

Once the elders discovered Pamela and Martin were not divorcing, they were evicted from the home they had built on United Effort Plan property.

Now free from the church and living separately on privately owned land in a beautiful canyon perched above Colorado City, the couple is trying to piece their lives together.

Even though he was diagnosed with cancer and recently underwent brain surgery, Martin is upbeat.

"I'm too busy to die," he said, standing waist deep in a ditch he had just finished digging for a sewer line with his backhoe.

With no need to go through the Prophet anymore, Pamela and Martin say they are dealing with God directly.

"I think for myself," Pam says.

Recalling the FLDS' strong discouragement of television watching, Martin laughs.

"I've got dish," he says.

Get Tough

Few Colorado City women have Pamela Black's courage and stamina.

Most don't even want to consider the option she took – which, according to the religion, will turn them into apostates fated to burn in hell.

In the FLDS world, there is nothing lower than an apostate.

"An apostate is the most dark person on earth," says science teacher DeLoy Bateman, himself among the damned.

Bateman says the FLDS considers apostates to be "liars from the beginning, who have made covenants to abide by the laws of God, and have turned traitor to the priesthood, and their own existence. They are led by their master, Lucifer."

Few in Colorado City will risk such a branding.

Particularly women involved in plural marriages. An outspoken female threatens not only her future in the Celestial Kingdom but also that of her sister wives and husband.

With such pressure, it is not surprising that few women are willing to testify in court about the intricacies of fundamentalist Mormon polygamy. Late last winter, several plural wives were brought before a state grand jury convened in Phoenix.

The subpoenaed women included Marsha Barlow, Linda Johnson and Louisa Johnson, who sources said are married to Dale Barlow; and Alison Fischer, LuJean Fischer and her daughter, Jenny Steed, who are reportedly married to Kelly Fischer. The sources in Colorado City said Louisa Johnson and Jenny Steed were married as young teens.

In addition to being labeled apostates, testifying would mean the church could toss them out of their homes and take away their children.

Refusing to testify, however, could lead to contempt of court charges and jail time.

The women didn't testify, their lawyers challenging the legality of the subpoenas.

On February 11, the state Supreme Court rejected their legal argument for refusing to testify, clearing the way for the grand jury to once again subpoena them.

The Colorado City plural wives' defense is being coordinated by Tom Henze, one of Arizona's top defense attorneys, according to sources in the AG's Office. Henze did not respond to telephone messages asking if he was involved in the case.

Tapping top-shelf lawyers is nothing new for the FLDS.

Former Colorado City town attorney David Nuffer, a graduate of Brigham Young University law school, is a past president of the Utah Bar Association.

Earlier this year, Nuffer was named a full-time federal magistrate judge in Utah, where he will oversee pretrial civil and criminal matters. Nuffer's jurisdiction includes Hildale, which merges seamlessly into Colorado City with the state line bisecting the towns along Uzona Avenue. Hildale has many of the community's largest and newest homes, including a fenced, one-block compound for the Prophet and his horde of 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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