Thursday, May 18, 2006
34 children, 110 grandchildren, but very much alone
They live among neighbors who want them out of town. For Marvin Wyler and his two wives in the Fundamentalist Mormon polygamist enclave of Colorado City, Arizona, it is a nerve-wracking and depressing time.

You see, Marvin and his wives are some of the few people in Colorado City who no longer consider FBI fugitive Warren Jeffs a prophet. Although they used to follow him, they now consider Jeffs a fraud. This declaration has come at a cost.

Marvin, his wife Charlette, his other wife Laurie, and a late wife Esther have 34 children, and at least 110 grandchildren. But 10 of those children and a good number of the grandchildren are now out of their lives.

Warren Jeffs issued an edict declaring children should no longer talk with parents who are not loyal to the church. So nearly one-third of the Wyler children have completely cut off communication with their parents.

Marvin and Charlette tell me they occasionally run into one of these 10 children in this small town, and the children treat them like they are strangers.

We spent an evening with the Wylers. Three of the kids still live at home; two grandchildren were out jumping on a trampoline.

It seemed tranquil, but life here is now very worrisome for this family. Their house has been vandalized and church elders have told them to leave town.

But Marvin Wyler says he can't afford to leave, and besides, this is his home. His estranged children are still here and he has dreams of them coming back to their family.

So he'll wait it out, fearful of violence in Colorado City if and when Warren Jeffs is caught, but more fearful that he'll never have his children back because of beliefs that he helped them acquire.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 10:35 AM ET
  27 Comments
I don't even know where to begin to comment. This whole thing is too surreal to comprehend. If I recall correctly from the piece ran last night, the woman pictured had 16 of the 34 children referenced. That means she was perpetually pregnant for a minimum of 20 years and had probably never stopped lactating for that time.

Bewilderment aside, I do feel some sort of way about families being broken up over the whims of those outside the family and children not speaking to parents and grandparents unable to spend time with their grandchildren.

This whole polygamy cult thing has brought about complications on so many levels and in such a grand scope. It's overwhelming, all this previously unfathomable information of this lifestyle and culture - literally in our own backyard.
Posted By Anonymous jrrice, New York, NY : 11:30 AM ET
How in the world does one man support 34 children? Many cannot support 1 child these days let alone 34 kids and 3 wives. That's crazy! How do these people get wrapped up in that type of crazy world? What is the purpose of having more than one spouse and 34 children? These people are all brainwashed! It's just sad that these people believed in Jeffs. Jeffs needs to be hunted down - lock him up and throw away the key!!! What a sicko!!!
Posted By Anonymous Jessica, Montgomery, NY : 11:35 AM ET
I feel for the whole family. Although I may not agree with their life style, the children are the ones that suffer the most. Brain washed and lost.... I wish them well.
Posted By Anonymous Marco, MIssion Texas : 11:41 AM ET
A man with more than one wife and with more children than he can probably afford is just sick. Polygamy is just sick. Period.
Posted By Anonymous Lynne, Columbia, SC : 12:48 PM ET
And we care why, exactly?

You join up with a nut-cult, you get what you deserve.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Houston, TX : 12:51 PM ET
Doesn't the Bible say, "Honor thy Mother and thy Father"? Since when does Warren jeffs trump the Bible?
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 12:59 PM ET
I find it amusing that this man is being asked to leave town. Religious people slay me...truly. One minute they will give you the shirt of their backs, cross them, and they resort to the kind of tactics they scorn in others.

It's sad that the Wyler children are so easily swayed from their family, but their parents raised them to be susceptible to the kind of brain washing that Warren Jeffs and his type are capable of. So I'm not at all inclined to feel sorry for any of them...
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Seattle, WA. : 1:02 PM ET
And you wonder why our founding fathers wanted seperation between church and state.

When is mankind going to drop kick the bible, koran and the torah out of our lives.

If these books were inspired by "god" don't ya think they would have been a little clearer in their instruction and not left for interpretation.
Posted By Anonymous Hugh, Camp Hill PA : 1:08 PM ET
How archaic. I think that some of those people out there need to start thinking for themselves... I say good for him for standing up against that cult, even if he is a polygamist.
Posted By Anonymous Taylor,St. Louis, MO : 1:16 PM ET
No body have the right to tell another person he can not speak to his or her parent or other family member. God does not work that way but the is always someone trying to put words in his mouth so to speak.
Posted By Anonymous DA Reese, Lexington Park, MD : 1:19 PM ET
I believe Jeffs is a pedophile and a criminal. And I disagree with polygamy completely. But why is Jeffs' case so interesting? No one condemns men who father children by multiple women (without marrying them) and leave them on welfare. We can't decide as a country that a marriage is only between one man and one woman, but we can decide that marrying more than one woman is a crime?? Where is the justice here? This situation is frightening. I can't believe people are getting sucked into this?
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, Canton, MI : 1:42 PM ET
Hi Gary,
Perhaps the family should move. Start a new life in a new town and build a life that has them in control and not others..As it stands they are still letting someone victimize them over and over..My two cents whould be..If they are strong enough to make the decision to break free from the sect, they are strong enough to rebuild their lives..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 1:43 PM ET
"fearful that he'll never have his children back because of beliefs that he helped them acquire"
Wow Gary, that's powerful writing. Hats off.
Posted By Anonymous Brigitte M. Montreal Canada : 2:05 PM ET
Is there any retribution on the two thirds of the Wyler children who ignore Warren Jeffs edict and continue to have a relationship with their parents?

Setting aside the crimes of Warren Jeffs, I'll never understand how anyone could live in this way, turning over all of their freedom to a "religious" dictator.

A healthy spiritual connection to life exists when individuals make a personal connection to their spirituality, ignoring outside influence whether it's from a cult like Jeffs or an organized religious group.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 2:22 PM ET
2 wives and 34 children?!? Sheeesshh!! For [God's] sake, these people are nuts! Where's the dignity of man?!? Breeding like a bunch of animals...sick, disgusting!
Posted By Anonymous Shawna, Atlanta, GA : 2:27 PM ET
This is the price you pay when you practice polygamy. I can't say I really feel sorry for these people that their "kids" won't talk to them. It's the Wyler's fault for raising these kids in an environment that has such a negative influence on them. If they had really wanted one-hundred percent attention from their "kids" they should have stopped at one wife and attempted to fit in to society as we have established. Just because they have now changed their minds, doesn't mean the people they raised will come around as fast. It is a giant cycle, those 10 kids will continue to practice polygamy and will raise another batch that think its ok too. Practicing polygamy is illegal for a reason, and I cannot feel sorry for anyone who has their life dramatically affected because they believe now or at some point that polygamy is ok.
Posted By Anonymous Adam, Wausau, WI : 2:27 PM ET
Hi, Gary - if anyone has doubts that Warren Jeffs is a derranged cult leader, this story on Marvin and Charlette should convince them. To have Jeffs "issue and edict declaring children should no longer talk with their parents" is simply inhuman and borders on sadistic. To live in fear of everything from the damnation of your eternal soul to the sanctity of your home and family because of one man's declarations is the antithesis of what any reputable faith is all about. Add to that Jeff's penchant for young boys, as recently revealed by the victims themselves, and the tragic loss of the many young women whose lives he's destroyed and it becomes more imperative every day that this criminal, and those who are hiding him, be found and brought to justice.
Posted By Anonymous Marcella, Des Moines, Washington : 3:55 PM ET
How old is this guy? Seems a little old to let someone else decide how he should live his life.
Posted By Anonymous D R Kellogg, Bloomington, IN : 4:03 PM ET
I'm curious to know what caused them to turn against Jeffs. Three wives, 34 children over 110 grandchildren - they seemed to go along with the fundamentalist life style for a considerable length of time - what happened to make them change their minds?

I'm finding it difficult to feel sympathetic for them .....they have contibuted to the the brainwashing and systematic brainwashing of their children and grandchildren, it's the children i feel sad for.
Posted By Anonymous R. Dasani, Phoenix AZ : 4:10 PM ET
Lorie Ann hit the nail on the head. Even though it will mean completely starting over from scratch, they need to get together the family members who are still communicating with them and move.

If I were in their shoes, dealing with brainwashed zombies, I'm not sure I'd leave a forwarding address.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Bryan, Texas : 4:11 PM ET
It's issues like these that give Christianity a bad reputation because spectators (i.e., atheists, pantheists, among others) witness such confussion among us and only gain more ground upon which they rupport their revolt towards the Christian faith, and thus making our work harder. I don't blame them at all. My comment in deffence of our faith to you, the spectator, is this; The salvation we claim isn't given us by a church or by following a mere mortal like the rest of us who claim such authority that they almost claim divinity (I say that as they have changed the site of Christ's return from the Mount of Olives to two locations in the US, baptize on behalf of the dead, etc). But since an old adage says if you throw mud at others, not only do you get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot of ground as well, I'll hold my tounge.

We are given warnings against the likes of Mr. Jeffs in the Bible, saying that those who aren't wise enough to seek and heed the truth will blindly follow the likes of Mr. Jeffs like sheep to the proverbial slaughter. The truth is there for all to find, but only if saught whole heartedly and with a desire to find it. And as you do, it sets you free.
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Columbia VA : 4:28 PM ET
It says 3 wives, one is deceased...but still thats an average of 11 kids per woman. My confusion is that if he has shunned the church and the prophet, why is he still then practicing polygamy? I feel bad for the kids who have been brainwashed into this cult, and then the grandkids at well who are a third generation of the maddness.
Posted By Anonymous Annie, San Antonio, Texas : 4:36 PM ET
in response to adam of wausau, and other comments on this blog, the only "reason" polygamy is illegal is because closed minded people think its gross. its the same "reasoning" behind the gay marriage bans all over the country. yes, jeffs is a horrible man and should be brought to justice. yes, this man in the story here was probably brainwashed and probably made a lot of bad decisions. while i wouldnt practice polygamy myself, there is no innate reason for it to be illegal. its becuase of its illegality that people like warren jeffs thrive.
Posted By Anonymous tracy cincinnati ohio : 4:42 PM ET
I really wish people would learn to not associate polygamy with Mormons, FLDS or other cults, arranged marriages, child molestation/abuse, oppression, brain washing, low self worth, and welfare. There are thousands of us polygamists out there who are none of those things. Polygamy doesn't make you belong to a cult. Polygamy doesn't make you a pedophile. Polygamy is in fact basically legal in several states. I am a wife in a polygamist family and because we have more than one adult able to bring in an income, we actually live quite well.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Sacramento California : 4:43 PM ET
By ignoring the laws of the US and practicing polygamy, these people are teaching their children that the law does not apply to them. They are criminals in the eyes of everyone but their cult.

It's really a sad situation. Religion is often used to control the masses; too bad that control is so cruel to families and to the innocent.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 4:53 PM ET
The commenters here are sick.
So just because the man had more than one wife, that means he deserves to be ignored by his children? Am I the only one that sees how cruel it is to make that statement? Those are just children. Stop saying they aren't because no one here, and no one but that man, can decide who his children are. Family is a lot more than blood. A lot of so called "Christians" need to remember that compassion is for everyone, not just the people you agree with.
I'll pray for him. I don't care what religion they are or if they practice polygamy. I just want to see a family reunited.
Posted By Anonymous Bekah, Miami, Fl : 5:33 PM ET
I don't understand, these "illegal immigrants" keep saying they want to get what they are promised. Exactly what is it that they think they are owed after sneaking into the country illegally! They may not have gotten caught and managed to stay here without getting caught but they still broke the law and don't have a right to be here when there are thousands of other "legal" immigrants who are awaiting citzenship. They are the ones we should be helping. They did not break any laws and these illegal immigrants should not get precedence over them. America owes these "illegal immigrants" nothing. They should do the right thing and obey the law and come here legally like everyone else.
Posted By Anonymous Columbia, MD : 2:23 PM ET
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