Thursday, May 11, 2006
The other fundamentalist polygamist
We are out in Utah and Arizona looking for the other fundamentalist polygamist on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. The one whose name isn't Osama bin Laden. It's Warren Jeffs.

I spent some time recently in Saudi Arabia, where polygamy is legal, yet by no means universal. In Islam, a man is not supposed to have more than four wives. Interestingly, bin Laden's father had many more than that, but he got around this by frequent divorces. He ended up with more than fifty children. The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, also had a number of wives and several dozen children.

Back to where I am now, Utah, which happens to be another desert climate. (Does that have anything to do with polygamy? If so, I can't figure it out.)

I spent the day out here with a private investigator named Sam Brower, who has been looking into Warren Jeffs and his organization for the past three years. There have been a number of civil suits against Jeffs, and Brower has helped the plaintiffs in each, so he's spent considerable time and effort in trying to understand Jeffs.

Brower compares Jeffs and his church to the Taliban. They dress and act in a certain way, he says, and Jeffs controls the women and makes them subservient. This is all wrapped around Jeffs' version of a fundamentalist Mormonism. Brower says that in his opinion, Jeffs is also a terrorist, but his "terrorism is directed at his own people."

The big fear of course among the law enforcement community with Jeffs right now isn't about terrorism. Instead, the operative word is Waco. Everyone worries about what might happen if Jeffs gets involved in a big standoff. But that is a story for another day.
Posted By Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer: 10:16 AM ET
  24 Comments
I think the operative word is WACKO. I don't care how many wives the guy has, that's every man's dream; but I question the women's intelligence if they really buy into the BS. Yet another case of religious conditioning.
Posted By Anonymous Scott McRae, Richmond, VA : 11:23 AM ET
The comparison to the Taliban is appropriate, IMO. Warren Jeffs has total control over the lives of his followers. I think he's nothing more than a psychopathic, pedophile cult leader.

I don't have a problem with polygamy as long as all parties involved are freely consenting adults. However, in this case, too many women were forced to marry Jeffs or other men in the group, sometimes as minors, and furthermore, they never had the chance to know any other way. Women in the FLDS are seen as little more than slaves and baby-making machines.

I can see why the law enforcement community is worried about causing another Waco. But this guy has to be apprehended somehow and brought to justice. It's just sad that the abuse of children has been allowed to go on for so long under the guise of religion.

I can also highly recommend "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. It provides very solid background for anyone wanting to get a handle on this story.
Posted By Anonymous Linnea S., Bloomington, MN : 11:35 AM ET
As I commented the other day when the first blog came out, I think women involved in this practice are programmed into believing that they are not worth much, and have to put up with this treatment. No woman should have to settle for having to share a partner or be subservient. I find it unbelievable that in this day and age, especially in this society, that this sort of practice is tolerated and accepted by these women. I'm not even going to get started on the abuse of young girls being forced to be a wife to much older men.
Posted By Anonymous Julia, Dover, DE : 11:38 AM ET
Kuwait sent their top detectives here to Canada to learn the ways of what today we call CSI and they returned home a year later just 'in time' for the first suicide bombing driver to crash throught the gates of the American Embassy there. My father taught them. I got to know some of them well and over the years I have had significant friendships/relationships with people of various Islamic nations.

With regard to polygamy, the difference between Jeffs, some of the so-called Fundamentalist Mormons and the Muslims I have known in my life is that the Muslim polygamists don't have an agenda or a "bleed the beast" mandate. A husband must be financially able to care for each wife and her children individually, in individual homes. In fact, according to the lives of my Kuwaiti and Iranian friends, the community stature of a man and polygamous husband is determined by his level of integrity and ability to care for his family.
No food stamps or welfare checks in their lives!

Are the people of Jeffs following another example of the parasitic 'entitlement' philosophy so rampant in North American society?
Posted By Anonymous Deborah H., Kitchener, Ontario : 11:38 AM ET
Another of view point:

Since Jeffs is now on the FBIs most wanted list the Bush Administration probably hopes this will take our minds off the fact that he hasn't caught Osuma bin Lauden.

Yet then again GWB may be attempting to find a way to show the right wing religious fanatics that he still stands with them.

There are certainly a number of criminals that pose a far greater danger to innocent people than Jeffs.
Posted By Anonymous tsilva, Minneapolis, MN. : 12:17 PM ET
In response to Julia, polygamous women being programmed to think they are "not worth that much" is just the tip of the iceberg. They are coereced from a young age into believing that their temporal AND eternal happiness is soley dependent on their submission in all matters to their husbands. The true tragedy is that these women are not only faced with subservient status, but must endure it because they fear for their eternal salvation and that of their children, and think there is so other way from a spiritual standpoint.
Posted By Anonymous Madeline, Seattle, WA : 12:47 PM ET
Stop sterotyping all polygamists into one group. Not every American who practices polygamy (whether in Utah or another area) belong to a group like Warren Jeffs. Some live totally normal lives and live in normal neighborhoods with normal neighbors. The TV show BIG LOVE is NOT fake. Many polygamist lives this very way.
Posted By Anonymous Kate M., Lehi, Utah : 1:18 PM ET
We saw Anderson Cooper reporting on this issue live right in front of the LDS temple. Why? Go stand in front of the FLDS temple okay.
Posted By Anonymous AJ Peterson SLC, UT : 1:50 PM ET
I think thats a fair enough statment Kate, same thing with the religious right and Eric Rudolph. My concern is that you listen to these women who are not only programmed to believe this they are programmed to go out and defend it on CNN. thats whats so worrysome to me. I mean programming alright but when its to the point these people (not always just the women) who are kept under a literal lock and key and think its good, then you have a serious problem in need of intervention. Look at Fred Phelps. I am all for religious freedom but only to the point where it does no harm to the individual.
Posted By Anonymous Todd, Ilion, NY : 2:01 PM ET
The longer the authorities wait with this man, the more children will be born into his cult, hence, there will be more innocent children who could die for him. The odds are not in favor of prolonging this.
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 2:02 PM ET
Madeline, I couldn't agree more. This kind of abuse, domination and fear is not only true of women who practice polygamy, but of so many women all over. Programming that comes from the time they are very young that they are just not worth anything, so they end up accepting any crumb these men will give them, and accept the physical and mental abuse just to feel any bit of approval. And the saddest part is, they then pass that same belief on to their daughters.
Posted By Anonymous Julia, Dover, DE : 2:04 PM ET
Fundamentalism in any form invites isolation and tyranny as the weapons of choice to keep the designated leaders in power and control. The travesty of its implimentation within the Mormon communities condemns entire families to a never-ending cycle of oppression. Participants within polygamist families, who are largely made up of women and children, are reported to insist there is plenty of love and support to go around. Many other comments, on this website and others, state they are frequently so controlled by men that they appear to carry little understanding of how trapped they are. I believe these women know exactly how trapped they are, but they do not know how to find, or to trust the resources available to help them break the cycle of oppression. Given the lack of legal support, from law enforcement or state legislation, it's a wonder any women or children make it out of these communities with their bodies and minds intact.
Many reports are also quick to point out the plight of women and young children abused within polygamist communities, but many neglect to mention the other family members harmed by this practice. Just think about some of the statistics offered for the marriages. If one man has five or more wives, it would be necessary for the community to have a comparable ratio of men to women (say, 1:5, at least)for all member to participate equally. Since this would not exist within an average community, what, then, happens to the young boys not chosen to become the future elite men? My guess is that there are many, many young men driven from their homes as they begin to mature, unable to participate with their families as their same-age sisters are being "prepared" to become another man's property.
How can this be called "divine" for families? And when are the agencies designed to intervene these abuses going to do something about it?
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Dover, NH : 2:25 PM ET
Thanks Kate! As a wife in a polygamist family, I really get fed up with the notion that all polygamists are Mormons or FLDS, that all of them are child molestors, have arranged marriages, and that the women are oppressed. In my family and many thousands like mine, the women are not brainwashed or abused, we truly love one another, and we voluntarily enterred the relationship as consenting adults. We (my family) are not Mormon or FLDS, we don't live in a multi-family commune, and we don't live on welfare. Our kids are well adjusted, go to the same schools as everyone else, and are free to associate with other families. My self-worth is very high as is my husband's other wife. People might walk into a law office, IT section of a company, or a hospital and never know that one or more of the women they end up talking to is a wife in a polygamist relationship just like mine.

People: Lose the bigotry, hatred, and misconceptions.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Sacramento, California : 2:38 PM ET
Linking the desert and polygamy together has some merit until you talk about the Mormons. If you read Mormon history, they did not start out in the deserts of Utah. Polygamy has just become part of their religion. As Muslims go, polygamy started because of the harsh environment of the desert and the lawlessness of Arabia at the time of the prophet Mohammed. THere was a societal situation where there were more men than women to the extent that many women weren't "taken care of" as this was the norm back then. It took men to herd livestock, look for water, etc. Then came Islam saying you could have no more than 4 wives because mulitple wives at the time was the norm with no limit. THe stipulation Mohammed put on it was: "As only if you can treat them all equally." (4:3) And then he goes on to say "no matter how you try, you will never be able to treat your wives equally." (4:129) Sounds like he's trying to discourage a societal norm without being too radical.
My point is: Polygamy is a cultural thing that has nothing to do with religion, but people (as falable as we are) will use religion to back up anything. And as long as we pick and choose which passages to use and when....it'll sound good to the unlearned.
Posted By Anonymous Chuck Mac, Hampton VA : 2:40 PM ET
Anderson, the issue of polygamy has been a recurring topic in this country and will continue to be so; my question right now is why the FBI has seen fit to place this particular man on the "most wanted" list - are there not other more deserving of this spot? For me, the story is the placement on the list.
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Charlotte, NC : 2:49 PM ET
The scariest post in this thread is above where someone misspelled Osama Bin Laden. Ignorance is the biggest threat to Americans, wether in regard to polygamy or terrorists.
Posted By Anonymous Peter W., Draper, Utah : 2:50 PM ET
The issues of polygamy and the crimes of Warren Jeffs are two separate issues. Warren Jeffs uses polygamy as a means to commit his crimes. He should be captured, prosecuted, and if found guilty, punished to the full extent of the law like any other criminal.

I understand the governments fear of another "Waco incident". There are a lot of innocent people who could be hurt or killed. However, because of his suspected criminal activity, Warren Jeffs must be brought to trial.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 2:55 PM ET
More worthless coverage about an uninteresting issue that doesn't touch the lives of most Americans from cable's next FOX network, CNN.
Posted By Anonymous William Muney - Portland, Maine : 2:58 PM ET
Questions: Polygamy or Not? Does it really hurt no-one?

In a small town in WI I have a co-worker who became a friend. Then I was introduced to her "Life-style". Her, her husband, and their children live next to another family. The yards of both homes are fenced together. Both men work, she works, and the other woman stays home with both families children. Each week the mom's trade families. All household responsibilities, child rearing, homework, and husbands.

Two men, two women Polygamy?? Is this really not affecting the children?? OK for the adults, but. . .?????
Posted By Anonymous RL Appleton, WI : 3:28 PM ET
Reading the comments I must present the arguement that wether or not you agree with the law it is the law. I can think of a lot of other laws I disagree with (our drug laws for example) but that doesn't mean I an just go ahead and break them. Its not prejudice its the law if you don't like it get it changed. Just because GW feels he can ignore the law doesn't mean everyone else can to.
Posted By Anonymous Todd Ilion NY : 3:51 PM ET
I do not think that CNN is stereotyping all polygamists into one group. IMO AC/360 has made it very clear that there are,(1) legit law abiding Mormons,(2) polygamists that enter into this arrangement willingly,(children have no rights in this group) and, (3) the fundamentalist Jeffs group who are programmed and held captive as "slaves to do his bidding". Women and children have no rights in the last group.
This country condems human right violations in other countries but appears to condone these violations in this country by failing to bring to justice those breaking the law.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn Michigan : 3:56 PM ET
These polygamists are not 'fundementalist mormons'. They are not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whatsoever. They do not practice 'fundemental mormonism' becuase their teachings are in direct conflict with the doctrine of the Church! I refer you to the newsroom site of the Church's official website lds.org. Learn how to correctly refer to these people please.
Posted By Anonymous James Miller, Las Vegas, Nevada : 5:13 PM ET
Your comparison brings up an interesting point: why AREN'T we looking for Osama bin Laden? Doesn't he pose a bigger threat to America than a small sect of Mormon fundamentalists???
Posted By Anonymous Caroline Shapiro - Oakland, CA : 5:27 PM ET
I agree with the comment AJ Peterson made about reporting in front of the LDS temple. It's stuff like this that fuels stereotypes and misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church/LDS Church, what have you), and it is absolutely WRONG of the media to do this; but it seems like the media enjoys doing this... This story was SO EASY for the media to differentiate between the FLDS and the LDS Church, but rather than doing so, they all seem to try to subtly link the two together. I don't believe there was any ignorance in making such decisions. Shame.
Posted By Anonymous Alton Wong, Toronto, Ontario : 1:11 AM ET
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