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Book Review - The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect

FrenchDoc's picture

SLoS

I have been amazed (in a bad sense) by the story of the raid by the State of Texas on the Fundamentalist Mormon compound in El Dorado and the removal of 460 children. It is indeed incredible that such practices are allowed to persist in the 21st century United States.

When it comes to religious fundamentalist movements and other reactionary and fascist groups, there is no better source on the Internet than the blog Orcinus (David Neiwert's blog, with co-author Sara Robinson). In this cas, Sara Robinson got the thankless task of reporting on this and in this post (which is well worth a read), she recommended Daphne Bramham's book, The Secret Life of Saints - Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect. I fully trust Sara's judgment, so, I got the book and, boy, it was quite a read.

If you don't know anything about the Fundamentalist Mormon, this is the book you want to get the full historical and social context of a sect that has tentacles in Utah, Arizona, Texas, Idaho, South Dakota and British Colombia in Canada. Even though the title indicates a focus on the Canadian side of the sect (Bramham is a journalist for the Vancouver Sun and she has a blog there as well), the book includes a lot on the American branch of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (FDLS, which has been in the news so much recently).

As I mentioned, the first part of the book is a historical account of the rise of the Mormon church, all the way back to Joseph Smith. The migration to Utah. Later came the split between the mainstream branch and the FDLS, and then the further split between the American branch (which kept the FDLS title) ruled by Rulon Jeffs and later his now-imprisoned son Warren Jeffs, and the B.C. branch, headed by Winston Blackmore. How big is the fundamentalist Mormon movement? Of course, it's hard to tell because these fundamentalist communities are not exactly open to the outside world, but Bramham puts it between 40,000 and 100,000.

In the FLDS, of course, patriarchy and polygamy are the pillars of the church, along with white supremacy, having a lot of children and a creepy conception of heaven where men can become gods if they enter that realm with three wives and get to keep their worldly bodies and continue to have children and get served by said wives. Sexism, of course, is omnipresent as well. Fundamentalist Mormon communities revolved around the subjugation of women, their sexual submission, and their arrested development. This sect perfectly illustrates the very conservative idea (found in more "respectable" circles such as conservative family groups) that marriage is the ultimate solution to tie women down, especially if you can get them pregnant all the time. And so, both Jeffs and Blackmore, as prophets of their respective churches, have dozens of wives and hundreds of children.

The big question, of course, is how is it possible, since polygamy is illegal both in the United States and Canada, both countries have statutory rape laws and statutes on the age of marriage. And that does not take into account the state of quasi-slavery in which boys are held. Basically, these FLDS communities are one gigantic human rights violation. Why do we tolerate this (and Bramham is merciless in pursuing an answer to this question)?

There are, of course, many reasons but I think the major one is that elected officials are cowards when it comes to religion and the fundamentalist communities have hidden behind freedom of religion and cultural diversity to assert their right to break the laws. Of course it is infuriating to see the Fundamentalists claiming their rights to be free from government intervention while at the same time extorting millions of dollars of taxpayers money for their schools and other questionable projects. When was the last time we all agreed to fund criminal organizations?

Anyway, the few times that the authorities (either in the US or in Canada) have dared going after the FLDS, it has practically never been because of the polygamy or the enslavement of women per se, but rather because of suspicions of child marriages and child abuse. Authorities have been notoriously reluctant to attack these communities on the polygamy front, arguing that such legal action would not hold in court. After all Warren Jeffs is in prison for complicity in rape, not polygamy. Again, Bramham is very clear in highlighting the cowardice of the BC political establishment when it comes to prosecuting polygamous communities, such as the polygamy capital of Canada: BC' Bountiful, Winston Blackmore's little kingdom.

Bramham also spends a big part of the book depicting life in the FLDS and it is scary (she notes that apt comparison with the Taliban: how come we bombed one and tolerate the other, they're the same). Bottom line, these communities aim for self-sufficiency in almost everything except big taxpayers' checks. Otherwise, they have their own schools, hospitals, midwives (FSM knows they have use for those), their own logging companies, and their own trust funds to manage the money the prophets extorts from their constituents in the form of tithe.

The prophets have absolute power over their followers. They assign wives to men according to supposed visions they get from God. They lay down the law when necessary. Since they own all property in their compound, they can evict entire families from their homes and reassign them at their discretion. But otherwise, the life of these communities is based on mass rape, child sexual, physical and mental abuse (especially for girls who have it hammered into their brains that they are on earth to be faithful, fruitful and obedient wives, and nothing else... the solution to taming a rebellious girl is to marry her... that'll calm her down to be raped a few times and then pregnant non-stop). It is also the story of the institutionalization of dysfunction and pathological relationships and of economic exploitation.

The relationship part is essential. In their mythical preaching, FLDS prophets would tell you that having sister wives (the multiple wives of a polygamist) is great because any wife gets help in raising children and maintaining a household. She has constant female companions and friends and the children are more loved and cared for. It is simply not true. First, it is exclusive: a wife is expected to relate to her sister wives, but to sever ties to other female friends. And of course, once mothers, they are at the same time expected to give up the major prerogatives of motherhood (not to mention they have no choice as to whether or not they want to be married in the first place, have their husbands their other wives, and whether to have children, how many and how often):

"In the name of God, the prophets have forced women to cede the very essence of motherhood. They do not protect their children. In deference to the prophet's will, fundamentalist mothers have allowed their daughters to be raped, abused, trade, humiliated. They have allowed their sons to be abused, exploited and even cast out alone in the world when they're barely teenagers." (144)

Indeed, women get socialized into this role very early on. And that is of course one of the many hypocrisies of the sect: the glorification of family and motherhood while at the same time destroying any chance at either. And as for solidarity between sister wives?

"Far from being solidarity amongst the women, far from this being a loving family unit where sister-wives work together in harmony, the wives' world is a dangerous one, rife with jealousies and conflicts. It's not surprising, since many of the wives weren't women, but girls, when they married. Even now, they live in a state of arrested development, capable of all the cruelty and even violence of any teenage girls. And often, the children are caught in the crossfire." (224)

After all, what matters is submission to the prophet as God on earth and survival in a hostile world controlled by evil forces. The women never got develop any sense of adult critical judgment since they move directly from childhood to marriage and motherhood with practically no step in between. And combined with the lack of education, they remain permanent children, of course, much easier to control. On this topic, Bramham quotes Willa Appel, author of the book Cults in America: Programmed for Paradise. Says Appel,

"[They are groups that] hold themselves apart in some way from the rest of the world. They are by nature antagonistic to society, their members bound by a fervent ideology and belief in a spiritual leader. The classic structure of messianic cults is authoritarian; followers, subjugated to an all-powerful leader or hierarchy of leaders, are dependent and submissive, believing that their salvation is contingent on abject obedience." (147)

There is a price to pay for this: personal happiness. Everyone in the FDLS is told to "keep sweet", to always present a happy expression. The reality is different. Bramham reports that a very large proportion of the women in these communities are on Prozac or other such types of medications (I guess faith alone is not enough to stomach a lifetime of abuse).

There is another major downside to living in closed communities: in-breeding. This is the only thing that makes the book hard to read at time: you can't keep up with who's married to whom. The limited number of families have intermarried so much that a cousin may also be a step-mother at the same time. In-breeding also has health consequences in terms of gene deficiencies.

In addition, polygamy is practically impossible: in a closed community, if one man is going to have more than one wife, it means that some other man will not be able to find one. So, how is the conundrum resolved? By expelling boys from the community so that they present no competition to the elders. After all, girls are probably more attracted to boys their age than to elders several decades older than they are. The solution is to get rid of some of the boys by excommunicating them for whatever sin the prophet decides they have committed. This is patriarchy: the rule of the father, and not just phallocracy (male dominance).

"Among the sad facts about the polygamous Saints [FLDS men] is that all children are treated as chattels. Girls are valuable because their fathers can trade them for power, position or property. Boys are the slave labourers who allow fundamentalists' businesses to undercut their gentile competitors who abide by labour laws and pay union wages. It's from the boys sweat that prophets and bishops buy Cadillacs and planes and support their dozens and dozens of wives."

(252)

This theocracy mixed with feudalism, truly. The lost boys, as they are called, are then dumped into the world they know nothing about and were taught to distrust so that the elders can get easier access to the younger girls, uneducated and unprepared. But we're the ones going to hell for our secularism, promotion of gender and sexual equality and reproductive choice.

Education is also a major issue: as Bramham states, in the case of Bountiful, the last generation to have a high school education was the founding generation. Since then, only a few individuals were allowed to go to college. In the case of women, it's mostly to become nurses or midwives, not only because they are needed in the community but also because they can get unionized, high-paying jobs on the outside and contribute money. Otherwise, education is just indoctrination (and somehow, the BC authorities have accredited the community schools even though they preach white supremacy. In the US, Warren Jeffs demanded homeschooling of his followers, based in recordings of his sermons). Besides, who needs an education when your life is to get married and pop one kid every two year?

In this context, it is easy to see why it is very difficult for members to leave these communities and Bramham argues that there should be specialized social services dedicated to escapees of the FLDS. It is also very hard to prosecute polygamists because of the lack of witnesses. But right, now, after the conviction of Warren Jeffs and the raid on El Dorado, these communities are under siege, as they should be. There is no place in our societies for this type religious practices. They are no better than the Taliban and other theocratic movements.

I certainly highly recommend this book. This is a very long review but I have barely scratched the surface. The book is full of details and stories as well as factual information that will truly appall the reader. But it is indeed an essential read to understand the hypocrisy of it all.

As additional reading on the El Dorado raid, the best place to look is Sarah's Blog at Corrente. Sarah has done a great job of rounding up all the information available on the case in a series of posts:

Cross-posted at The Global Sociology Blog

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Great review. Fascinating people, the polygs, in a macabre way. The depths to which human hearts and minds can be twisted is amazing, and even this book does not quite cover it all.

Down on Short Creek, where the adjacent FLDS towns of Colorado City AZ and Hildale UT are located, there are two small cemeteries, set apart from the main ones. These plots are where the babies are buried, the ones delivered by FLDS midwives. Many of the graves are unmarked, and no one knows for certain how many children are interred; the FLDS doesn't always record these as births or deaths. We know that a serious genetic disorder has produced dozens of severely mentally deficient and nearly helpless children, but those are just the ones who have survived. Speculation is that hundreds – yes, hundreds – more with the disease were stillborn or died in their first few days, and there are persistent stories about fathers smothering the defective newborns because their illness was thought to reflect badly on the man’s religious status; only a sinner would be punished with defective children. It is, IMHO, quite likely that the FLDS are, in addition to child rapists, enslavers of child labor, and welfare cheats, also mass murderers. It is well past time they were stopped.

Oh, and this: "When was the last time we all agreed to fund criminal organizations?" That would be the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

FrenchDoc for the review of the book, and the kind comments about what I had put up, and Bringiton for, as always, emendations and extensions -- and for beating me to the punch line, again, regarding the Bush "elections."

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

Both your comments about the elections of 2000 and 2004 (which cracked me up in a sad kinda way)

and on the mass murder thing (which Bramham actually alludes to several times).

It is quite scary.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

How come everybody always assume I'm a man (both here and at my own blog)! There needs to be some work on gender assumptions!! :-)

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

and I'm a grandfather! Does that make me one of the dry penis demographic?

Nevermind, it's late.

G'night all!

------------------------------------------------
" . . . we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . ."- Winston Churchill

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

It’s a language defect, in English the masculine is the default assumption. Thankfully that was Sarah’s gaffe, I of course would never make such a blunder; but then I don’t listen to Brooks and Dunne, addles the brain cage.

Great credit to Sarah for jumping on this outrage and persisting at it, a complete collapse of political will and moral responsibility to have let this fester for so long. Not just the FLDS but other splinter groups have also been murderous; in the great Prophet wars there was always one faction trying to kill off the other. Last time I paid attention there were at least 75 known assassinations amongst the various polyg families, and several of them have been on the FBI wanted list and on the run for decades. Disgusting.

I’ve stood at those “Baby Cemeteries”, that’s what they’re called. There are no signs or anything to signify them, just a couple of open fields, and few of the graves are marked. All you can see is one small depression after the other, a few feet apart, and they go on and on; score upon score of them. It is the saddest place I have ever been.

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

An old friend of mine ended up in an Arizona/Utah border town for a while during an acute phase of his mid-life crisis. Most of his story was entertaining if extreme, but the part that wasn't were the behind the scenes accounts of the FLDS he found there. Those guys routinely commit seriously criminal acts to maintain their dominance and isolation, and I understood they used the fear they instilled in the law enforcement community to conduct other criminal enterprises.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

the police depts are almost completely comprised of FLDS, so, forget about reporting rape or child abuse. And Jeffs himself had his own brigades of young thugs in charge of enforcing his rule and scaring away outsiders.

Salmo, how did you friend get out? Was it easy? Did he fully join the FLDS?

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

Well, let's say that Bob wandered to the Southwest seeking less structure and a warmer climate. He was living in my duck blind until it got too snowy, so less structure than that was probably pretty unstructured. He wasn't FLDS material and he would not have been a good target for fundamentalist thugs. When I last heard from him, he was living with some raft guides.

Submitted by lambert on

That's horrible. If your friend want to post anonymously....

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Historiann's picture
Submitted by Historiann on

for your review and commentary on the recent FLDS raid in Texas. Religious communities like these--and I hesitate to use a seemingly neutral term like "religious" here--present serious problems in the United States, where libery of religion is a Constitutional right, and in Canada where tolerance is a national virtue. These communities also make Catherine Mackinnon's point in her book, _Towards a Feminist Theory of the State_, where she argues that there is no such thing as a generic, gender-neutral liberal state. When states are in the business of enforcing property rights, and women and children are themselves defined as property, the fiction of the liberal state is revealed.

What's a feminist to do about the women in these communities? On the one hand, they're clearly victims of a cult that has enlisted them in victimizing and exploiting themselves and their children. On the other hand, adults are responsible for their own behavior, and I'm uncomfortable with assigning victim status to all of the women. (Just as there are hierarchies among the men in these communities, I'm sure there are hierarchies among the women, and some women were benefiting more than others.) Frenchdoc, did you get a clear sense about how to think through the problem of agency versus victimization, based on the understanding of these communities you gained from reading the book?

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

And I kept thinking about it as I was reading. I also thought about it when I saw the women on Larry King after the raid and removal of the children.

What the book makes pretty clear is that FDLS have no compunction about lying to outsiders, the state, the media, etc. So, as I was listening to the women, I kept thinking "they're all lying". Actually, FDLS folks actively lie because they think the outside world is evil and does not deserve any basic respect. At the same time, they congratulate themselves on how much $$ they get from the state.

As to the question of agency versus victimization, it is, as always in the social sciences, a tricky and complicated one. And I don't see it as an "either/or". It's more "both/and".

1. In the case of the children, it's easy to decide. They are exploited and violated. They need to be removed and rehabilitated.

2. The religion issue: democracies protect religious BELIEF, not religious PRACTICE. What if one's religion demands human sacrifice? Is that ok? Some religions require the ritual slaughter of animals, that does not follow health regulations? Is that ok? So, what is a religion demands child marriages and polygamy, is that ok, as religious PRACTICE? OF course not. Both the US and Canada have anti-polygamy laws. It's just that public officials have been cowardly about enforcing them.

Polygamists cannot hide using the cultural relativist argument. As the book states
In Canada and the US and all liberal democracies, equality is at the top of the list, nor diversity. Merely being different isn't enough to override another person's human rights."(402)

3. There is a clear body of international law (CEDAW, to name only one, specifically for women) or just the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that reject forced marriages and child marriages.

4. Education: I was appalled to read that most of the Mormon schools in BC are accredited and receive public funding, like other independent (that is, non-public) schools. Fine, if they want to remain publicly funded, then their curriculum should be thoroughly reviewed and standards should be enforced. Presently, everyone knows the curriculum is religious indoctrination and nobody does anything about it.

5. Receiving state assistance means openness to state review. This should be enforced as well.

6. And these children cemeteries? Let's dig up the bodies and do some testing to determine causes of death and engage criminal prosecution if relevant, and health reviews.

7. Finally, laws are not designed to reflect personal preferences (I have Brussel sprouts... Can I get a law that says NO ONE can eat the suckers anymore?... the same goes for gay marriage). As one of the Canadian Chief Justices states, quoted by Bramham,
"The chief justice stated that some acts are by their very nature unacceptable - not just because individuals disapprove of them, but because they lead to 'societal dysfunction or to the creation of a predisposition to anti-social conduct.' Polygamy is one of those."

Which is exactly the case, these communities socialize people into breaking the law and flaunting it. Polygamy, in addition to being illegal, has deleterious effects on the social fabric (and of course, anti-gay groups have tried to establish the same for gays except that studies show that this is not the case. Acceptance of gays does NOT promote anti-social tendencies).

Anyhoo, Historiann, I don't know whether I've really addressed your issue. But my point is that, from a practical standpoint, we can bypass the agency/victimization debate with all the points I have listed above.

[And you're also absolutely correct about the gendered nature of the state]

What do you think?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Kicked this one around a bit in Sarah's thread here. Having met a large number of polygs, FLDS and others, I'm inclined towards perhaps a greater level of charity than others might be. None of them are in control of their faculties, having been indoctrinated and brutalized both emotionally and physically from birth. No one can grow up in that environment and be whole, or wholly responsible for their behaviors.

No excuse for the crimes, they need to stop and some of the perpetrators need to do prison time. So does the emotional abuse and manipulation, but that's a tougher task to sort out. I still have scars from my childhood, and that was just Lutherans.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

I think there is a need for both approach at the same time:

- the charity / social work / psychological rehabilitation

- the legal / criminal angle

And since we're at a time where we're supposed to have Big Conversations about things, how about we examine our relationship to religious groups of various ilks? (that's a can of worms that I'm sure no candidate would wanna touch with a 10-foot pole).

But what do I know, I'm a rabid (or is it "raging"?) atheist... no scars for me!

Submitted by lambert on

What, lutefisk?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by lambert on

... men are becoming property as well. Or their bodies, at least. Like almost everyone, eh?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

Debt bondage is an illegal practice. We rail against it when it's done in India and other places. And yet, we tolerate it in our own backyards (so to speak).

Just like Canada makes polygamous Muslims divorce their "extra"-wives, but tolerates FLDS.

Is such a reluctance to prosecute tied to the fact that they loosely define themselves as Christians? Or that a lot of public officials in Utah have polygamous ancestors?

Submitted by lambert on

... and I know this is radical, and perhaps even anti-feminist, but in important ways men do not own their bodies either. Bodies, male or female, are "human resources" to be harvested by disembodied corporate entities. This is why no teebee is important, food is important, skills are important, all of it.

I have no theoretical grounding for this, but this is the understanding I have come to. This is not to dilute the feminist message in my mind but to expand and generalize it.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by lambert on

"Bob wandered to the Southwest seeking less structure and a warmer climate. He was living in my duck blind until it got too snowy..... "

And now, we all are dying to know, what happened to Bob? Consider a series....

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

but a delicious delicacy. If that had been all, I'd still be showing up and gladly.

Missouri Synod. People who still carry Luther's guilt over leaving Catholicism, and to prove it was all worth it they need to do an all the more rigorous job of instilling guilt and fear of eternal damnation. Original sin, damned to hell for all eternity at the moment of conception, redeemed by grace alone and that only earned by avoiding all wickedness at all times. Of course the list is long and even thinking about it is a sin; “it” being damn near everything of any interest.

Telling little children that they’re going to burn in hellfire for all eternity, for being human; there is no excuse. Some people do deserve a fiery hell.

And yes, men now are on the downhill curve of the product lifecycle. Story, as it were, of my life.

Historiann's picture
Submitted by Historiann on

for your further thoughts on agency versus victimhood. I think you're right that the state needs to focus on acts versus beliefs, and I agree with all of the points you make above. I was just wondering if you got the sense that some (elite, few) women get something out of the FLDS system, versus the majority whose minds and bodies are put to work for someone else before they have the opportunity to object. I was asking more about how status among women works in FLDS.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

That's not the case. There is really no upper crust of privileged women benefiting from the system as opposed to the "average" woman in FLDS.

What you have is a competitive system where wives vie to be the favorite of their husbands, so that they and their children can derive some privileges from the position.

Such competition is by design, it is encouraged as it increases their subservience. Of course an older wife will be threatened when her husband marries a 14-year old girl. And husbands do keep their wives constantly off-balance by arbitrarily bestowing and withdrawing privileges. It's a well-known mechanism of power.

And, of course, there are some men (prophets and their male entourage) who are considered better marriage partners, so, mothers might push their daughters to marry them in order to indirectly benefit from their position.

As you see, this whole set of social processes: dominance, competition, etc. is a feature of this closed environment and its purpose is strictly to maintain women in a position of subservience. Even the lowest positioned men in the hierarchy are taught to use such tools to keep their wives in check

Historiann's picture
Submitted by Historiann on

Frenchdoc for the more detailed explanation. Your description of the FLDS environment and status for women is helpful. No women permanently benefit from the system because that would deprive the men of a key tool for manipulating women--the hope that they might get a temporary advantage or benefit from the system.

Disgusting.

I'm less troubled now by the thought of seeing the women all as victims by definition. If one is raised in a closed system like that, and manipulated by a small cadre of male elders for their own benefit, how can one develop independent judgment, or a sense of oneself as a moral being with responsibilities to others? And yet, some women--very few by comparison, I'm sure--escape and try to build new lives outside of these communities.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Women who believe in the FLDS religion do see themselves as benefiting from polygamy and all that it entails.

In FLDS mythology, the successful man has to perform certain ritual acts. These include having at least three wives, performing a series of "temple rituals" and conforming to the church's prohibitions on "sinful" behavior. If those requirements are met, along with some additional tasks that will be revealed by Jesus in his Second Coming, the man and his wives will be installed as gods to rule over an Earth-like planet, which they will populate with their children, made "in their image."

The women in FLDS are both abused and abusers. A "First Wife" is of significantly higher status than other women who are not. The First Wife of the lowest-ranking male FLDS member has higher social status than all other lower ranking wives of all other FLDS men. The societal hierarchy among the women is strictly enforced, by them, and those at the top of their social ladder are merciless in defending their rank. Like academicians, they don’t have much and thus fight all the more fiercely for what they do have.

Within this community, social status is everything; who is in, who is on the outs. While all decisions are formally made by the men, the women are not simply passive vessels without resources. So long as they conform to the rules - rules which accede dominance to the men, yes - then the women can both dominate other women in this life and secure for themselves a place of power for all eternity.

It is a horrific system; no argument. And, as in any social structure, those with the greatest power - the men - also have the greatest culpability for the system's wrongs. However, it is also true that without the collaboration and active, willful participation of the women - who as adults outnumber the men by more than 3:1 - the system could not structurally sustain. While subordinate to the men, many of the women of the FLDS are also active co-conspirators.

Furthermore, the cruelty of the FLDS religion is not solely visited on females. To maintain the religiously-mandated sex ratio of more than 3:1, two-thirds and more of the male children are expelled between the ages of 13 and 18. These boys are turned out into the world with the clothes on their backs, with no money, no skills beyond manual labor, and a rudimentary education of reading, writing and simple sums – sixth grade at best. They are cut off from all contact with their families, excluded from the only world they have ever known, and are told that their lives are worthless and that they are condemned to hell for all eternity.

The world they are sent into is the one they have been taught since infancy to see as populated by the disciples of Satan, where the black descendents of Cain are free to roam the streets kidnapping and eating white children; I cannot imagine the terror they must feel. No one knows how many of these “Lost Boys” there are, but they number in the thousands. As unfathomable as it seems to us, their mothers are active, willing collaborators in this practice.

They are all of them deluded, all of them - men along with the women - the product of and victims of abuse. All of the adults including the women are collaborators in the perpetuation of these practices. It is not so simple as to allow the drawing of a bright line with “Men = Evil” on one side and “Women = Innocent Victims” on the other.

If we are going to have sympathy for the female victims of this horror – and we certainly should – then we must also have sympathy for the victimized males. All of the adults, including those at the top, are the product of unthinkable abuse and manipulation, twisted into what they have become by generations of the cruelest sorts of operant conditioning. The FLDS adults are, all of them, both victim and perpetrator; it will take enormous effort and careful, judicious thinking to properly sort out this mess and appropriately punish, help and forgive what has been done.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

All your points confirm what I wrote and the review and my responses to Historiann.

Again, when I emphasized patriarchy (as the rule of the father / elder / prophet), the "lost boys" as they are called, are certainly victims (and sometimes of sexual abuse themselves in addition to their excommunication into a world they don't know and their exploitation for labor.

So, the women may "perceive" a benefit, but in reality, it is still mechanisms of oppression... whatever benefits a "first" wife gets still contribute to her playing the competitive game and her oppression.

The ones I do not consider victims at all are the prophets themselves (Jeffs, Blackmore). They live in obscene wealth and enjoy all the amenities of the American society while making their flocks live in a 19th century theocracy.

But I think we established in another thread that you were more charitable than I am. :-)