Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy

Aired May 10, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, from Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the Mormon faith.
Tonight, we're investigating a practice that the church itself outlawed more than a century ago, polygamy, a problem hiding in plain sight. The leader of a renegade polygamist sect is on the run right now tonight hiding from the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He's on the same list as Osama bin Laden and nearly as shadowy -- a rare look at what makes Warren Jeffs run.

The men cast out, how do they survive? What happens to their families?

And what do the women say?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you know how many wives they are?

LINDA, POLYGAMIST: Yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: Is it between 10 and 15?

LINDA: Yes.

TUCHMAN: The kids, the range, how many kids?

LINDA: More than 30.

ANNOUNCER: Wives sharing a husband and family and loving it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360: "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy."

Live from Salt Lake City, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us.

We are here in the beautiful city of Salt Lake in -- in beautiful Utah, the center of a nationwide manhunt. In the mountains around me, in neighboring states, possibly Canada, even Mexico, authorities are looking for this man, the leader of a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, a radical sect that still practices polygamy.

Just to be absolutely clear, polygamy was banned by the Mormon Church, which is behind me, more than a century ago. But this man, Warren Jeffs, calls himself a prophet. He says he speaks for God, and tonight he is on the run, facing felony charges involving underage girls and arranged marriages, serious enough to make him one of America's most wanted.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): To his thousands of followers, Warren Jeffs is the chosen one, a prophet who speaks for God on Earth. To others who have studied his sect, he is pure evil.

JON KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN": Has the kind of pathology that would put him on a par with Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein. He's raped and sodomized many, many children, girls, women, and he's created this culture that is damaging in its own right.

COOPER: Jeffs rules over the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints. Known as the FLDS, the group shuns the outside world, living a kind of "Twilight Zone" existence in sealed- off communities in Utah, Texas, Arizona, and British Columbia, building churches and waiting for judgment day.

GARY ENGELS, MOHAVE COUNTY INVESTIGATOR: These chosen people believe that they will be lifted up while God sweeps the Earth clean of the wicked people, and then they will be sent back down to rebuild the Earth.

COOPER: Those who left the FLDS describe chilling accounts of Warren Jeffs. He's all-powerful, believed to have dozens of wives himself, and picks what women church elders should take.

In a rare audio recording made by a disgruntled member and obtained by a local radio station, Jeffs preached about first-time brides and obedience. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WARREN JEFFS, POLYGAMIST LEADER: Many young men, when they receive their first wife, they're just so untrained. And the woman, if she's not careful, will be overbearing and always ask permission for what she wants. And, ladies, build up your husband by being submissive. That's how you will give your children the success. You will want your children to be obedient and submissive to righteous living.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Jeffs also spews hate, warning his believers of a wicked world.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all of the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Brent Jeffs is the nephew of Warren Jeffs. Here's how he describes his uncle.

BRENT JEFFS, NEPHEW OF WARREN JEFFS: He puts on a front like he's a very nice man, a very giving man, very happy. But, underneath all that, he's very dark and very evil. And he will do anything to hide himself and get away from all these charges. And, so, all I can say to everyone out there is, just keep your eye out open for him.

COOPER: Tonight, Jeffs is a fugitive on the run, but still very dangerous. That is what has so many concerned, fearing his maniacal authority coupled with divine devotion will lead to a violent showdown.

KRAKAUER: The problem is how to arrest him, and without provoking some calamity that would dwarf the calamity of Waco or even Jonestown. That's the challenge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that is the problem. And the question, of course, tonight is, where is Warren Jeffs? That's what the FBI and many state authorities would like to know.

He has communities here in Utah, also in Arizona, also most notably and perhaps most significantly right now in Texas. About 200 miles by air from Waco is the small town of Eldorado, Texas. It is a place where precisely what John Krakauer feels could play out.

In fact, that's what some locals say members of the FLDS seem to be planning for.

CNN's Rick Sanchez is there now -- Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating to see what's going on here, Anderson.

We were surprised when we saw it ourselves. It's literally a town that's suddenly springing up out of the brush here in west Texas. The sect that really began in Utah, then moved down to the Arizona border now seems to be setting up shop here in this side of west Texas. We tried to talk to some of the folks in this sect today, but it was tough to do that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): This is south central Texas, isolated, quiet, but there's a building boom of sorts here, around this temple erected by Warren Jeffs' polygamist followers. And look at this, a rare glimpse into this new world of Mormon fundamentalists, one of the only photos of women and children working the fields of this 1,700- acre compound under construction by Jeffs' chosen followers.

It's called YFZ, or Yearning For Zion, because this is where the man they call "The Prophet" has told them they need to be when the world as we know it comes to an end.

For other residents here, though, it sounds alarmingly like what happened in another Texas town.

(on camera): Are you worried that this could be the next Waco?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have the manpower. They have the financial resources, and they're in an isolated area.

SANCHEZ: We're going to go ahead and try to drive into the compound, but it's surrounded by other ranches, so this is really the only road in. We're told that it is protected by guards and all- terrain vehicles, and some of the locals that we have talked to say they're armed.

(voice-over): Nobody really knows whether Warren Jeffs, who's now one of the FBI's top 10 fugitives, is in the compound.

Sheriff David Doran is one of just a handful of insiders who have ever been inside.

(on camera): How do you know Warren Jeffs isn't there right now?

DAVID DORAN, SCHLEICHER COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF: I can't say. I mean, I don't know. I don't know if he is or not.

SANCHEZ: So, why not get a bunch of your guys in there and raid it right now and find out if he's there?

DORAN: Well, you know, one would speculate that's what needs to be done. There's all -- you know, critics would say, why aren't we doing that? We have to get good -- good, credible information that he's on the property. We have to have a sighting by law enforcement.

SANCHEZ: But they haven't. Nor have they received reports of any criminal activity, and although Jeffs is accused of arranging marriages between young girls and older men in Utah, there's been no evidence of that here. It's a possibility, though, that repulses locals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's sick. They shouldn't be able to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nasty. It's just wrong. It shouldn't be -- it shouldn't be like that.

SANCHEZ (on camera): We have essentially come as far as we can go, because there's a locked gate here that prevents us from going any further. But if you look all the way down the road, you see a massive stone temple jutting over the horizon. That seems to be in the middle of nowhere.

(voice-over): It now seems Jeffs' followers originally intended to conceal what they were doing, when they placed a 10-foot sign that read Whitetail Hunting Lodge.

Schoolteacher Ernesto Barrero (ph) was among the first to realize something was amiss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told my wife I noticed right away they misspelled whitetail.

SANCHEZ: Whitetail was misspelled?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm-hmm.

SANCHEZ: They lied?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, they lied. They said that it's going to be a hunting resort.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A work permit explains what the property really is, YFZ, a religious church organization. We called the number on the permit to ask for Ernest Jessup (ph)...

(on camera): Hi. Is this Mr. Jessup (ph)?

(voice-over): ... but were told we had the wrong number.

We also tried to talk to catch up with one of Jeffs' followers driving a truck loaded with film. But he spotted us, ran, and then drove away.

From the air, pilot J.D. Doyle (ph) showed us the massive temple, the three-story housing units where Jeffs' chosen followers now live, the water tower, the school and community center, the dairy and cheese factory, even a massive concrete mill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warren tells them that the end of the world is near, and it will be so many days after the last corner is -- is set on the temple. And then, after that, God is going to come, destroy the Earth. They're going to be the only people left, because they believe that they are the only true believers tribe of Israel left.

SANCHEZ: Surrounded by nothing but cactus and brush, followers are completely isolated. Locals say only men are allowed to leave the compound. They believe only those with at least three wives will reach heaven, and women will only reach heaven if they have their husband's blessing.

(on camera): What's going to happen if the feds come in here and try and arrest him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waco.

SANCHEZ: There will be another Waco?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without a question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What about the FBI, Rick? What are they doing? What are they saying? Do you see them around?

SANCHEZ: Yes. I have been talking to law enforcement throughout the day. The local sheriff says, look, I only have four deputies. It would be a very difficult task to go in there, even if I tried.

And the FBI told me this afternoon that the only way they are going to go in is if they get an actual sighting, because, otherwise, they wouldn't be able to go to a court and say, we have probable cause that he's actually in there.

COOPER: Are -- are any of the residents in the town, I mean, happy to see them there?

SANCHEZ: Surprisingly so. There are plenty of people here, merchants, who are saying, you know, they're great customers. They have come in apparently with a whole lot of cash. They say they come into their shops, usually with $100 bills, and they're spending a lot of it as they build their new town -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm.

All right, Rick Sanchez, thanks very much.

With me now, someone who has been sort of a tour guide for us these last several days into the world of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, his nephew, Brent Jeffs, who left the group and says that his uncle molested him.

Brent, thanks for being with us again

B. JEFFS: thank you.

COOPER: You -- you were looking at those pictures of that compound in Texas. You were never there. What did you think when you saw it?

B. JEFFS: It's really -- it's really hard to think that something came from some -- so small here, up here in the compound up here in Sandy.

COOPER: Because that's where it started, up around here?

(CROSSTALK)

B. JEFFS: Yes. It started up here, and slowly moved down to Colorado City, a quiet little town, and, as he took over, escalated into what now is Texas and the big, big temple down there.

COOPER: It's interesting.

I was talking to someone earlier who was saying that Warren Jeffs used to say, you didn't need a temple to get to heaven. All you really needed was -- was multiple marriages. But now, then he changed his mind, and all of a sudden they build this temple.

B. JEFFS: Yes.

That's -- that's him slowly taking over the people, and, in his mind, becoming a god and making all of the decisions for himself. And the people believe him, no matter what.

COOPER: What was it like when you were a kid growing up in that life? And, I mean, did you believe it for -- for much of your life?

B. JEFFS: Yes, I did, actually, because, when we were little, ever since we were old enough to walk and talk, we went to church with our parents and was taught that religion over and over and over and over.

And, so, we knew nothing else. And so we thought that was the way it was.

COOPER: And it's interesting, because, I mean, what people here in Salt Lake will keep reminding you, and rightfully so, is that this is not the Mormon Church. This is this offshoot. But they actually believe -- Warren Jeffs believes that they are the true Mormons, that...

B. JEFFS: Yes. They think that they are the true break-off from the Mormon Church, and they're the true and chosen people.

COOPER: Because they're still holding on to polygamy, whereas the Mormon Church gave it up in 1890.

B. JEFFS: Absolutely. And, so, I think that's where it should have ended, back then.

COOPER: What do you think's going to happen? I mean, where do you see this ending?

B. JEFFS: I see this ending as Warren slipping up. He will slip up, and we will nab him, and hopefully see him in the courtroom and try him.

COOPER: Do you -- what would you say to him? I mean...

B. JEFFS: You know, a lot of things come to mind, but I would say to him, you know what you did, and you know what you did to my family and all these other families. And you need to pay for what you did.

COOPER: I think it's hard for people to understand that -- the power that one man can have in a community like that. I mean, he's literally able to break up families, and has reassigned people's wives to other families and -- and cast young kids out. You're -- you're...

B. JEFFS: Yes.

It's sad to see all these, you know -- like these lost boys, their dads kicking them out because of all these old men wanting to take these new young brides. It's sad to see. But they think in their heads, if they don't do exactly what he says, they will burn in hell.

COOPER: Well, Brent, it's -- I know it's been a tough road for you. I appreciate you talking with us again tonight. Thank you very much.

B. JEFFS: Thank you.

COOPER: Good to see you again, Brent Jeffs.

Before he became a fugitive, Warren Jeffs gave his followers some disturbing commands to obey. Here's the "Raw Data."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jeffs ordered all dogs shot. He banned television, movies, music, and holidays. Jeffs reportedly also outlawed laughter and dispatched young men to make sure his disciples were heeding his words.

Our next stop tonight, Arizona, for a rare look inside polygamy and some candid talk from those who still practice it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love my husband dearly, but the other ladies in the house probably have a closer -- I might have a closer relationship with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that's not the only surprising thing you will hear from these women and others who are still practicing polygamy. We will hear from them coming up.

Plus, if you think Warren Jeffs has no bearing on your life, think again. The most notorious polygamist in the country could actually be putting a dent in your wallet. We're taking big tax dollars his group is able to access. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest," following the money trail.

And a man who's made it his mission to stop the spread of polygamy. He's an expert. He used to have three wives himself, and then he lost his faith -- why he thinks Warren Jeffs' sect is really a cult -- coming up on this special edition of 360, live from Salt Lake City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. We are live in Salt Lake City. That is a beautiful shot of the Mormon Temple here in downtown Salt Lake. We are live, as I said, in the city which is the capital of Utah and world headquarters of the Mormon Church. That, of course, is the landmark Mormon Temple. Only Mormons can go inside.

The fugitive polygamist, Warren Jeffs, does not worship there. The mainstream Mormon Church, as we said, banned polygamy more than 100 years ago, so that Utah could become a free state.

Tonight, we're in Salt Lake City to give you some perspective on just how far Warren Jeffs' influence has spread. We are going to take to you Colorado City, Arizona, to show you that polygamy did not go away, not by a long shot, also back to Eldorado, Texas, home to one of the secretive groups that broke off from the Mormon Church, and north to Bountiful, British Columbia -- in all these places, polygamy still hiding in plain sight.

Tonight, right now, to Arizona, some 260 miles southwest of here, where polygamy isn't just the theme of a new HBO series. We wanted to know what life is really like for those who practice polygamy. And it's -- it's -- it will stun you, how many people still do practice polygamy in these parts.

It was not easy to find families actually willing to go on camera and talk about it, but our Gary Tuchman did. And we want to stress that the people you're about to meet are -- they are not followers of Warren Jeffs, and their experience cannot be considered universal. But they are fundamentalist Mormons who believe their lifestyle is God's will.

Here's what they told Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A daughter and a mother.

KRISTEEN, POLYGAMIST: I have never had people make fun of me, but I don't think they know.

TUCHMAN: What they don't know is that daughter Kristeen lives in a 32-bedroom house with many siblings and many mothers. For security reasons, mother Linda doesn't want to give exact numbers.

(on camera): Do you know how many wives they are?

LINDA, POLYGAMIST: Yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: Is it between 10 and 15?

LINDA: Yes.

TUCHMAN: OK. LINDA: That would be safe to say.

TUCHMAN: And the kids, the range, how many kids?

LINDA: More than 30. All my kids are (INAUDIBLE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Most polygamist homes are not this big, but size is a nice luxury to have in these kinds of families.

(on camera): It looks like Versailles.

(voice-over): The children are all fathered by one man, one husband, who, because polygamy is against the law, doesn't feel safe appearing on camera. Neither do the rest of his wives who in most cases have paying jobs. They won't tell us what their husband does to pay for such a big house.

Here in the neighboring communities of Colorado City and Centennial Park, Arizona, most homes are polygamist. People don't want last names used because they're afraid.

But Marc doesn't mind talking. He's only married to one woman, but that's just temporary.

(on camera): Would you like to have 10 or more wives, like your father did?

MARC, POLYGAMIST: Sure. Why not? The more the merrier.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): It's not only men who talk like that here. We gathered a group of polygamists from different families who say, as fundamentalist Mormons, God has obligated them to live in pluralistic marriages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we do believe that he has commanded it.

TUCHMAN: Joyce (ph) doesn't want to divulge how many wives she shares her husband with and how many children they have, but she says she's very happy.

(on camera): Aren't there times you say, I just wish he was with me and had me alone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, no. I...

TUCHMAN: I mean, you're sharing your husband, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.

TUCHMAN: And that's OK with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, they're my best friends. TUCHMAN: Your other wives?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. They really are. In fact, I love my husband dearly, but the other ladies in the house probably have a closer -- I might have a closer relationship with them.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In an effort to avoid trouble, most of the polygamist families in this community get an official marriage certificate only for the first marriage in the household. Priscilla (ph) lives with several sister wives, as they're called, and many children.

(on camera): And when you see women out there who say you guys are just being taken advantage of, you know, by men who want to be with lots of women....

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We say you're taking -- being taken advantage of.

TUCHMAN: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we would say to them.

TUCHMAN: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because so many of them don't have a committed relationship.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): They know their childhoods and their families sound very unusual to most people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had more than four mothers.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And how many brothers and sisters?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Total, at the end of the family, we had more than more than -- more than 30.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had three. And we had more than 20 children in our family.

TUCHMAN: How many of you have had relatives who have gone to jail for polygamy? So, six of you. Grandparents? Parents?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grandparents.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: In jail for polygamy? And how did that affect your families?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was devastating.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The people in our group say they are not followers of polygamy leader Warren Jeffs, who is wanted by the FBI. But they are not ready to vilify him. LINDA: We have no idea. We don't know what he's done.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Would any of you let your 14- or 15-year- old daughters get married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: Sixteen or 17?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: Not until they're 18?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or older.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or older.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): They say they have all watched the new HBO show about polygamy called "Big Love."

(on camera): Do you like it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's entertaining.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's television.

TUCHMAN: Is it realistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: There's a lot of sex in that show, isn't there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is why a lot of people -- a lot of our people stopped watching after the first couple of episodes.

TUCHMAN: So, that's unrealistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Well, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People do have sex.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Which brings up this question: How is it decided which wife the husband sleeps with on a given night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We draw straws. And the one with the short straw has to.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No offense to the men.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love our husbands very much.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We communicate.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: These women say their husbands do have significant stamina. What an ego boost for the man to be loved by so many women.

(on camera): I mean, what an ego boost for the man, to be loved by so many women.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What an ego boost for the women to be loved by such a good man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a win-win proposition.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These people enjoy joking around, but they get very serious when they declare the mainstream Mormon Church made a mistake when polygamy was banned more than a century ago. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stand in support of the principle of plural marriage as a sacred religious tenet.

TUCHMAN: Polygamy will not be disappearing any time soon from this nook in Arizona.

(on camera): Are any of you ladies at the point where you would not want your husband to take another wife?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The more, better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture right now outside Colorado City, Arizona.

Gary, how dedicated are these people that you talk to? I mean, aren't they worried about breaking the law?

TUCHMAN: They're very worried about it, Anderson.

They are petrified that police are going to come here some day and take them away. But most of them tell us they will go to jail before they give up this lifestyle.

One thing we want to tell you, you did see one gentleman sitting with the group. That guy's name is Al. Al only has one wife. Ultimately, he may have more wives, he says, but he was born Catholic, converted. And, so, right now, he only has one wife, and it was the woman sitting next to him. So, those other women were not married to Al. They were married to other people.

We do want to tell you one thing, Anderson. When we talk about polygamists, it's important to point out that their views aren't monolithic, even in this small area. Here in Colorado City, they're very conservative. They regard Warren Jeffs as a hero.

But right down the street, where we met with a group, Centennial Park, only two miles away, they moved to Centennial Park 20 years ago, 1,000 people, to get away from Warren Jeffs. They don't consider him a leader. But those people and these people here in this city all believe in polygamy -- Anderson.

COOPER: Because, Gary, those women seemed to be indicating that it's their choice, but you hear from women who have been in Warren Jeffs' sect who say they had no choice, and, in fact, were often taken away from one husband and just randomly assigned to -- to another husband.

TUCHMAN: We had nine women with us last night, Anderson. We asked, if you wanted to leave here and go somewhere else and start a new life, could you? And they say: Absolutely. We could leave whenever we want. We want to be here. We like having sister wives. We like having one husband we can rely on.

COOPER: Also, just to remind our viewers that the belief is that the only way to get into heaven is for a man to have multiple wives, and therefore the only way for these women to get into heaven is to be obedient to a man who has multiple wives.

Gary, thanks for the report.

Closer to Salt Lake City, Warren Jeffs and his fellow polygamists are going a very long way with your tax dollars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 65 percent of the people are on welfare. They're on food stamps, compared to about 6 percent in the general population.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And food stamps are not the only problem. We will tell you what else the polygamists are doing. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Plus, we will take you inside a Canadian community, where polygamy is thriving, and meet one of its leaders, who says look at yourself before you judge him -- when this special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Polygamy's money trail -- there's always a money trail, and the one that follows polygamist Warren Jeffs leads right into your wallet. See how you're paying for him to be on the run.

And we will show you how -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all of the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Disturbing words from the -- the monotone voice of Warren Jeffs recorded during one of his sermons.

To most of us, his polygamist society seems like really another world. But the reality is that people there are living right here in America, and that means they should be paying taxes. The key word there is should. That's because they're not paying, and that means that you get the bill.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, from Salt Lake City, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Warren Jeffs may live thousands of miles from you but he may not be that far from your wallet. Jeffs and his followers are costing you money and getting away with it, critics say, by hiding behind religion.

MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Their religious belief is that they are to -- what they call bleed the beast, the beast being the government. Why they hate the government, they will bleed it. They will take everything they can from it through welfare, through tax evasion and fraud.

KAYE: You see, as practicing polygamists, Jeffs and his group believe it's their religious right to have multiple wives and dozens of children. And often lean on taxpayers to foot the bill. Here's how it works. The men have multiple wives, but only one marriage is recognized as legal by the state of Utah. So the rest of the wives claim to be single moms struggling to raise a houseful of dependents. That makes them eligible for government aid, so they collect welfare, lots of it, and it's all legal.

SHURTLEFF: More than 65 percent of the people are on welfare. They're on food stamps compared to about 6 percent in the general population.

KAYE: Keeping Warren Jeffs and his followers honest is a challenge.

SHURTLEFF: He is like a crime boss. I mean he runs an organization, an empire, where he has absolute control.

KAYE: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff hasn't filed charges, but he's investigating Jeffs for cooking the books, avoiding taxes, even setting up offshore accounts.

SHURTLEFF: He has them convinced from the moment they're born that he is God on earth and that if you disobey him, if you leave his church, if you disobey his commandments, then you will burn in hell forever.

BRUCE WISEA, ACCOUNTANT: Say nothing, do nothing.

KAYE: A judge appointed accountant Bruce Wisan to take control of the group's $110 million trust and the land in it. Wisan's biggest challenge? Collecting more than $1 million in overdue property taxes, from polygamist property owners living in Colorado City, Arizona where Jeffs' church is based. Is it their responsibility to pay?

WISEN: Well, it is, and they've received benefits of living on the trust land for free. They didn't pay for the land. And in many cases, community efforts built the houses. So all they have to pay is utilities and property taxes, and I don't think that's unreasonable.

KAYE: Why'd they stop paying? Because when Wisan took control of the trust, Jeffs ordered his members to stop paying taxes. So the standoff continues. Between religion and real estate and between Warren Jeffs and those hot on his trail. Question is, how much will it cost you before Jeffs is caught?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So how are they trying to get people to pay the property taxes?

KAYE: Well, they've held some town meetings which haven't gone very well where the accountant that you just saw in that story actually was begging people to pay their taxes. He's also sent out some mass mailings Anderson, and many of the envelopes, we're told, have ended up on the floor unopened around the community. So he's also gone door to door, but that isn't working well either. Apparently he told us that some of the people, the homeowners there, are building walls around their homes so the collectors can't actually get to their property and collect the money.

COOPER: And if they don't pay, what happens?

KAYE: The state is pretty serious about this. They say that they will be forced out, and then it's another problem for them. They're going to have to find another sect, they're going to have to pay for a new home and pay property taxes there.

COOPER: It's unbelievable that all this has gone on and so many of us are just really waking up to it. Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thanks for doing "Keeping Them Honest."

From the outside looking in, coming up, a man who has renounced his past. He once had multiple wives, raised more than a dozen children. We'll tell you how his life with them fell apart, why he considers Warren Jeffs a serious public threat.

Plus yet another community of polygamists, those that live there suggests that any outsider who has multiple sex partners has no right to pass judgment on them.

And you're looking live at Colorado City, Arizona, which is one of the home bases of Warren Jeffs who's on the run tonight. Is he there? Is he in Texas? You are watching a special edition of "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Warren Jeffs who says he's a prophet spreading what he says are the words of God. Saying that wives always put their husbands needs ahead of their own. Among the people we've met here in Salt Lake City, is a man who believes otherwise. The way he sees it, polygamist sects like Warren Jeffs are a cancer in America and exposing Warren Jeffs is just a part of the battle that must be waged.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: In a cramped office in his home outside Salt Lake City, John Llewellyn is working to stop the spread of polygamy.

JOHN LLEWELLYN, FORMER POLYGAMIST: It has brought badly needed attention to the problems of polygamy here in Utah.

COOPER: An expert on polygamist sects, John gives interviews and writes books about the hidden world of polygamist groups like Warren Jeffs'.

LLEWELLYN: It's amazing the power and this is why they're cults. And the pro-polygamist get very upset, they're very sensitive if you use the word cult. But there's no other way you can define it.

COOPER: John says Warren Jeffs has total control over his followers. Routinely breaking up marriages and destroying families.

-- that families can be ripped apart is hard to imagine.

LLEWELLYN: I know it's hard to imagine, but when you're raised from infancy from the time that you can understand in a word, and you have been indoctrinated to believe that he controls every aspect of your life, that he's the spokesman for God, that's why they do it.

COOPER: What makes John Llewellyn particularly knowledgeable about polygamist is that he himself used to be one. He once had three wives.

Where did everyone live?

LLEWELLYN: Well, I had a house about 100 yards away from here. Two wives lived there, when I had the three, one upstairs and one downstairs, like a duplex. Then the other wife lived right here.

COOPER: I see.

LLEWELLYN: So it took me 30 seconds to walk from one place to the next.

COOPER: So would you spend one night in one house? How would you arrange it?

LLEWELLYN: I tried to average it out evenly so I'd go from one house, you know, one, two, three, just make the rounds.

COOPER: John raised 13 children with his three wives. He now has 27 grandchildren. What was it like having three wives?

LLEWELLYN: Well it wasn't the bed of roses that you might think. There were times when all three of them were mad at me and I'd tell myself, Llewellyn, you've sure got yourself in a mess this time. Most of the time was spent in keeping the peace.

COOPER: In 1994, the peace shattered. John says he lost faith in the leaders of his polygamist sect and decided to leave the life. So your first wife divorced you, became the fifth wife of another polygamist?

LLEWELLYN: Right.

COOPER: And your third wife stayed --

LLEWELLYN: She divorced me, and she stayed with the priesthood, and I left.

COOPER: So your wife now was your second wife back then.

COOPER: Right, right.

LLEWELLYN: It's confusing, but John's wife, Shawna, was once his second wife. They're still married. She runs the family's flower business. They both renounce polygamy but live in a community where there are still dozens of polygamist families.

LLEWELLYN: Polygamists live right here in this house.

COOPER: John took us to the temple where he used to worship with other polygamists.

LLEWELLYN: There are some kids playing. These guys here, they don't recognize any of their marriage. So if they see another man's wife and they want her, they'll try and convert her if they can. And a lot of these guys have done it.

COOPER: John Llewellyn is hoping that Warren Jeffs' story wakes the rest of the country up to the realities of polygamy and fundamentalist sects.

LLEWELLYN: Look at it this way. It attracts fanatics, it attracts pedophiles. It attracts con men. It attracts people that are looking for power.

COOPER: And based on his own experiences, he believes, even if Warren Jeffs is caught, the desire for power will lead someone else to try and take his place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, coming up, the influence Warren Jeffs' fundamentalist sect also reaches into Canada. There, too our inquiries about polygamy received some, also not so friendly replies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, our life is less about bedroom scenes than you think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Coming up, we take you north of the border to a place called Bountiful, but it is a town divided. We'll tell you why.

Plus the history of the original and primary Mormon Church dating back almost 200 years. We'll recap its position on polygamy then and now. When this special edition of 360 continues live from Salt Lake City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And that's a live picture of the sun setting behind the Oaker Mountain Range outside Salt Lake City, Utah, the end of a beautiful day here in Salt Lake. As this day comes to a close, Warren Jeffs is still a fugitive from justice, still on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Is he here in Utah? Is he in one of his communities in Arizona? Perhaps Texas, or maybe even up north in Canada?

Welcome back to this special edition of "360," "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy." We're going to head north now to Canada where polygamy is illegal just as it is here in the United States. Illegal but certainly not extinct, just as it is here in the United States. For decades, the lifestyle has flourished in a small community in British Columbia, a community that has ties to Warren Jeffs. The name of the town, fittingly, is Bountiful. Here's CNN's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENTT: Winston Blackmore is one of the top polygamist leaders in North America. He's 49, is said to be worth millions of dollars, to have as many as 26 wives, and 100 children. Although he wouldn't confirm any of that when we talked with him today.

You never say to yourself, no more kids.

WINSTON BLACKMORE, POLYGAMIST: I leave that decision to the mothers. You know, and they do make that decision. Some of them have.

SIMON: Some of them have decided no more children?

BLACKMORE: Yeah. They are where they want to be, and that's it.

SIMON: Blackmore has lived his entire life in this polygamist community in Canada called Bountiful. For 18 years he was its leader, a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, until he was ex-communicated by the head of the church, now fugitive Warren Jeffs. But about half of Bountiful has remained loyal to Blackmore rather than to his replacement, making this a community divided but also at peace. About 1,000 people live here, nearly all of them in a polygamist lifestyle. You won't find any stores or restaurants here, just farmland. That's how Blackmore makes his living. So what do you raise here?

BLACKMORE: We just mostly raise alfalfa, we have a few beef cows.

SIMON: Here we find him greeting one of his oldest sons, who recently married and has two children. He's got a lot of catching up to do, doesn't he?

BLACKMORE: No, won't take him long. SIMON: That's because over time he expects to take on additional wives like his father. Blackmore refuses to discuss that aspect of Fundamentalist Mormonism. Other than to say --

BLACKMORE: You know our life is less about bedroom scenes than you think.

SIMON: And when challenged on those who find polygamy morally wrong --

BLACKMORE: All I would basically say to those guys is go list everybody you've ever had sex with and publish it on the front page of the newspaper. You know. So that everybody can see, and then come judge us.

SIMON: As for the children of Bountiful, they all go to school, but many girls never finish so they can help with family life. The motto for women here is, "Keep sweet and obey men." But Blackmore says that's not how it is around his house. He says his wives call the shots more than he does. This is Edith.

EDITH BARLOW, WIFE OF BLACKMORE: We have our own free agency to decide for ourselves what we want to do. Nobody tells me what to do and I don't tell anybody else what to do.

SIMON: Blackmore says he's turned down movies and TV offers for rights to his life story. They offered you $2 million for your story rights?

BLACKMORE: Yes.

SIMON: And you said --

BLACKMORE: Absolutely not. Our religion isn't for sale. Here we are we're just doing what we do.

SIMON: As in the U.S., polygamy is illegal in Canada. But since Bountiful was founded in 1947, no one has been jailed for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dan, were you able to get a sense of sort of the general mood there in Bountiful? I mean, Colorado City, we're hearing that right now there seems to be a mood of fear. What's it like there?

SIMON: Well, Anderson, first of all, we are in the middle of a canyon in Blackmore's compound, almost like a motel, is a couple miles away from here. As for the mood of the community I didn't get the sense that they are living in fear. Quite the contrary, they seem to be very content, happy people. And everyone we came across certainly could not have been more gracious or friendly to us except when you ask them how many wives or kids they have. For some reason, they find that question to be somewhat personal and even offensive, Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm, interesting. Dan Simon thanks. Fascinating. Another view of polygamy up in Canada, in British Columbia. The origins of the mainstream Mormon Church are vital, truly understand just how fringed Warren Jeffs and his followers are. The church dates back almost two centuries and was started by one man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joseph Smith was certainly persecuted for his beliefs, and that's one of the reasons that the members of the church had to move from one place to another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Coming up, we'll look at the roots of the Mormon faith, where the church stands on polygamy, then and now.

Plus, we'll meet a man whose efforts have done as much as anyone to help expose Warren Jeffs and his following. When this special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture here in Salt Lake City of the Mormon temple. Looking particularly beautiful at this hour with the lights just beginning to come on as the sun is still setting. And we want to repeat that Warren Jeffs is not affiliated with the Mormon Church based here where we are in Salt Lake City. Jeffs heads a small splinter sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In fact, Warren Jeffs doesn't belief this is the true Mormon Church. He believes his church is really adhering to the original principles of the Mormon Church. The larger 12 million-member Mormon Church which deplores polygamy traces its history all the way back to the early 19th century.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It began in 1820 in upstate New York when a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith claimed to have a revelation from God.

RICHARD BUSHMAN, AUTHOR, JOSEPH SMITH: ROUGHT STONE ROLLING: As he began to have visions from heaven, angels, and was told that he should recover and translate the book of Mormon.

COOPER: Ten years later, Smith published the Book of Mormon, calling it a divine inspiration he received from an angel. And he started the Mormon Church, preaching that it was the restoration of God's earthly church from which other Christian denominations had strayed.

THOMAS ALEXANDER, PROF. EMERITUS OF HISTORY, BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY: Joseph Smith was certainly persecuted for his beliefs, and that's one of the reasons that the members of the church had to move from one place to another.

COOPER: Despite moving from New York to Illinois, the persecution continued. Smith was eventually murdered in this jail by an angry mob in 1844, and Brigham Young took his place as church leader.

BUSHMAN: Brigham Young's vision was really a continuation of Joseph Smith's vision. And the hope was for a haven, someplace where the latter-day saints could gather, where they could live in peace, and live their religion.

COOPER: That haven became Salt Lake City, Utah. Young moved his followers west, and the church grew. As in other Christian denominations, Mormons believed in a disciplined lifestyle centered on Jesus Christ. But they also differed significantly. For instance, Mormons believe humans can become Gods. They believe in living prophets and preexistence. And another unconventional belief in the early days, which Joseph Smith said also came to him in a revelation, polygamy. After a battle with the federal government, the Mormon Church finally renounced polygamy more than a century ago. But not all church members were willing to give up the practice.

BUSHMAN: And that was the beginning of many of these groups that subsequently became what are called fundamentalist Mormons.

COOPER: Today mainstream Mormons are ex-communicated for practicing polygamy. Along with banning polygamy, Mormons have worked hard to improve their image and gain greater acceptance, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which performs in that dome behind me draws a huge crowd and has introduced the church to millions around the world.

So have Mormons like the governor of Massachusetts and Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid. But as in many religions, one of the biggest challenges has been distancing mainstream followers from the extreme actions of fundamentalists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And that's why Warren Jeffs believes that because he and his followers are still practicing polygamy, they are truly upholding the original beliefs, the original tenants that Joseph Smith propagated back long ago.

Coming up, we're going to take you back to El Dorado, Texas, where locals fear that Warren Jeffs may be hiding right now as we speak. But first, Erica Hill from "Headline News" has some of the business news we're following tonight. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, as expected today, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the 16th straight time. Up another quarter point to 5 percent, the highest level in more than five years. And the Fed suggested it just may not be done raising rates yet.

All that led to an up and down day for Wall Street. The Dow up almost 3 points while the NASDAQ fell 17. The S&P 500 lost 2.

And another loss over at Whirlpool. The company is cutting 4500 jobs by closing three plants and consolidating its corporate offices. But Whirlpool says it will eventually add positions at two Ohio plants. So overall, a net loss of 3,000 jobs. The move comes just weeks after it purchased rival appliance maker Maytag Corporation. And those are your business headlines. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Erica thanks.

Back to the search for Warren Jeffs. When we return a look inside a town where some locals believe members of his group are planning for a violent confrontation.

Also, the man who calls himself Jeffs' sworn enemy, a private eye and a Mormon who's taking on the FLDS with a vengeance. For him, it is very personal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines