Polygamy wedding cake

“Most families include at least three wives, because that’s the number you need to enter heaven,” explains a former Short Creek resident.

Ever fantasized about taking more than one wife? Although technically illegal, the practice of polygamy lives on in certain remote areas of the U.S. One of the most infamous (and ominous) of these places is a storied Mormon commune on the border between Arizona and Utah. Known as Short Creek, the area had been inhabited by fundamentalist Mormons for over 100 years.

The wives of former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs

Warren Jeffs’ many wives pose in front of his portrait.

The FLDS

Short Creek is home to The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS, for short) – one of the largest organizations in the U.S. that still practices polygamy. Although non-Mormon residents have since moved into the area, the FLDS influence is still strong. Men still have multiple wives, and women dress in full length skirts with bonnets. “Most families include at least three wives, because that’s the number you need to enter heaven,” explains one former resident.

However, the group has been struggling to stay afloat ever since former leader Warren Jeffs was found guilty of marrying off underaged girls to top-ranking members of the FLDS. He is currently serving a life sentence for two counts of child sexual assault.

Although Jeffs now finds himself behind bars, the twisted legacy and impact he left on the lives of his followers remains intact.

A Perverted Legacy

The FLDS is not your typical fundamentalist group. To just give a few examples of what Short Creek was like under Warren Jeffs’ leadership:

As the sole individual with the authority to marry couples in the FLDS, Jeffs had the unique power to assign wives to husbands. But that wasn’t all – Jeffs also had the power to punish male members by “reassigning” the wives and children of one man to the home of another.

Anyone who went against the commands of leadership would be forever banished from the community. This meant total separation from loved ones and children.

If this weren’t bizarre enough, Warren Jeffs himself is reported to have had around 70 wives, many of whom were younger than the age of 16 at the time of marriage.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation was Jeffs’ plan to create a “master race” that was completely loyal to him through selective breeding. But that’s also where the polygamists’ ran into problems.

DNA

Polygamy can have awful genetic consequences.

Disastrous Side Effects of Polygamy

As it turns out, practicing polygamy in an isolated area over the span of many years can have terrible consequences. A recent BBC special report uncovered astronomically high rates of rare diseases within the Short Creek community. The cause? An extreme lack of genetic diversity. Before the “outsiders” began moving in, roughly 80% of Short Creek’s population was directly related to the town’s two founding members: John Jessop and John Barlow.

But it gets worse. If you do the math, it quickly becomes clear that polygamy doesn’t work in a community that is 50% male and 50% female. Well, they had a solution for that too: FLDS leaders would send teenage boys packing before they reached adulthood. This allowed the remaining men to continue taking multiple wives. However, it also caused the gene pool to shrink even further.

Thus, as a direct result of the polygamous lifestyle, hundreds of FLDS children have been born with awful disorders and deformities.

What Does It Look Like Today?

Short Creek is still trying to shake off the impact of Warren Jeffs’ and his fanatical FLDS followers. The area now has its share of non-FLDS folks, and for the first time they have a chance to elect a mayor who is not a member of the church. But astoundingly, authorities continue to look the other way when it comes to men taking multiple wives. Despite its proven negative effects, the practice of polygamy continues in Short Creek.

What do you think? Are authorities right to leave the community alone, or should they intervene?

 

20 comments

  1. claimyourpowerblog says:

    “It’s amazing how conservative Christians claim to be the persecuted ones in modern society even as they are fighting to control others’ lives.

    They are the only group I know of who can define “persecution” as “not being allowed to dominate everything and everyone with a straight face.”

    1. D. Howe says:

      “They are the only group I know of who can define “persecution” as “not being allowed to dominate everything and everyone with a straight face.”
      Couldn’t have said it better myself.
      I am always reminded of my Grandmother’s little town church. They would hold prayer circles if someone was ill or in financial trouble, etc. WELL,…if the person got well or their finances turned around they would claim credit because of their circle {power of prayer and all that|. BUT, if the person did not get better or the finances went seriously south they would not claim defeat, oh no, instead it was the will of the Lord and they just accepted it as such. Talk about a Win-WIn!!!

  2. Miranda Allison Young says:

    Polygamy is not only illegal, but is extremely unfair to the women and children. The authorities who have jurisdiction in this area must do their job to stop it. The men should be arrested, charged, and jailed. The illegal marriages should be annulled since they were against the law at the time when they occurred. The women and children should be taken to a place where they will be safe and will give the children the opportunity to live lives as close to normal as possible. Those born with defects or disabilities must be given whatever treatment they need with the costs paid by the men. This must include punishment s severe enough to be a deterrent to others

    1. Dr. Mike says:

      Whatever happened to freedom of religion? What about the separation of Church & State? If a woman chooses to love a man who is married, and that man takes her on as a wife and gives her all the amenities of marriage, and she likes it, why should the authorities interfere?
      Most men have more than one woman. It’s been happening for ages. This group is being upfront about it, and In reference to the gene pool, just educate them. Help them develop a stronger society through education. Destroying their family units is not positive. We should do things to enhance their family units. If we are truly concerned.

      1. Mike says:

        This isn’t really a freedom of religion issue. The country’s founders were but a few generations removed from the religious persecution that racked Europe in the 1600s. Thus the concept of religious freedom refers to the establishment and endorsement of a national religion, with the goal of preventing a recurrence of those conflicts.

        In the US and most Western countries, marriage is a civil institution requiring a state-issued license prior to saying the vows. The religious component is optional. Were that not the case, people couldn’t be married at the courthouse by a magistrate. Given this, the FDLS has violated the civil construct of marriage that underpins the religious trappings of the wedding. All of the marriages save the first are therefore illegal and void.

        Lastly, there is a very real human rights issue here. I read about the BBC report last week. Most of the children in the current generation are so deformed and diseased from inbreeding, they are incapable of living without 24 x 7 care. Those that don’t require constant care still struggle from mental and physical handicaps. Left alone these bloodlines will die out within 2 – 3 generations.

        I don’t pretend to know the answer, and believe education is less of an option here because their religious beliefs take precedence. Whatever the final outcome, it should be a joint effort between state authorities and the larger LDS church.

    2. Rev. Pete says:

      There is no reason to outlaw polygamy. A third of the world is practicing it such as African and muslim countries. Its not for everyone of course but if women agree why not?

      1. Nevik Smithtree says:

        I fully support you and this movement. Who has the right to judge love, other than God? if all are legal age and agree, then there should be no legal barriers. A man can live with and have many kids with multiple women, as long as they do not marry and get insurance benefits. I plan on doing that, no government issue license, just a private religious ceremony.

      2. angel722 says:

        I agree, so long as they are still abiding by the laws in the state and country they live in. There are some that are cults and because of the abuse the kids endure, just like anyone else, it needs to be stopped. But if they are a family, having kids, raising kids and everyone is happy and healthy and noone is prevented from leaving, then leave them alone.

    3. Nevik Smithtree says:

      miranda allison young- why only the men? women said “yes” to the marriage too; prosecute 1, you must prosecute the other(s). After all, equal rights!!..ever hear of it? unless you do not believe women are equal to men……

  3. Dr. Art says:

    Separation of church and state assumes a false equality. The church exists at the pleasure of the state, and the state is prohibited to make laws against their existance. However, the USA was founded as a nation of laws, not religion. Churches must obey the laws of the land if they are to allowed to exist. Incidentally, look at that picture of Jeff’s ‘wives’. Strong genetic similarities in their faces, indications of inbreeding, never a good thing. Maybe this promises that this communitiy will eventually die out from its own practices.

  4. Nevik Smithtree says:

    FREEDOM of RELIGION!!!! Separation of church and state!!!! leave them alone!! let it be legal!

  5. Kashif Mushtaq says:

    Polygamy should never be allowed at any cost. I’m from Pakistan and the Christians here strictly oppose the polygamy. God created only one woman for one man. He would have created more female companions for Adam if polygamy remained His choice.

    1. Nevik Smithtree says:

      david and solomon had many wives. abraham had hagar. there are more females than males on earth. freedom means letting people do things freely even if you do not agree, as long as everyone involved is in agreement and its legal. we have separation of church(temple, mosque, etc) and state for a reason. that reason is FREEDOM!

    2. angel722 says:

      Christians don’t approve or practice polygamy. They believe as you. Mormon’s are a different sector of christianity, like you have chriatians, catholics, mormon’s,johovah witnesses, baptists, penticostles, all different religions within the umbrella term of Christian. But the Christians who go to your country are probebly the bible thumping one’s who refuse to call themselves anything but christian. So, now that we cleared that up, what gives you the right to tell other people how to live your life? Do you like it when other religions tell you what’s what? No, so what makes you so special???

  6. Sandy R says:

    In the Old Testament of the Bible, polygamy was allowed but mostly for procreation– and that was way before the dawn of Christianity– and for some strange reason some people feel possessed to carry-on that old outlawed tradition– I really actually thought it would be outlawed by now, here in the US– but some stupid horny control freak has to somehow carry it on!!
    I think when the forefathers made up the declaration of independence and the Constitution, they didn’t mean for a lot of this stupidity to unfold!
    Why people now days have to take everything out of context and not follow the norm, is beyond me!
    Far worse than Sodom and Gomorrah!!

  7. BillyH says:

    I find it interesting that SCOTUS decided that the states do not have the right to prevent two men or two women from marrying and yet a third party to the relationship is within state control. Seems to me the SCOTUS has walked themselves into a Non Sequitur.

  8. Leah says:

    Leave them alone. Let people live the way they want to.

  9. angel722 says:

    Personally, so long as the kids are being taken care of and child brides are not part of the deal, I could care less how many husbands or wives a person has, it’s their choice. It wouldn’t work well for me because I don’t like to share and I don’t play well with other;s, but the contracts that people make with one another are none of by business. Let people be people. Noone cared when the kings or other people did it in the bible. In fact, it’s still part of their father religion today.
    Now, for this group, this man is a typical sociopath and needs to do prison time!

  10. Col Easton says:

    Many males have partner’s out of wedlock, so the Mormons are doing similar, but making it more legitimate, or at least more honest and open.

  11. Dr Mike says:

    It goes back to that old saying….Do as I say, not as I Do. Many men have extramarital affairs which produce offsprings. Polygamy is privately practiced in America and children are raised without their fathers and/or mothers because society says one man-one woman, but we all know that is not the practice. So if we can be honest with ourselves and recognize the truth, then we can embrace the idea of one man- many women society. Often times single men date more than one woman openly, but society kills the woman/women spirits with its idea of how a healthy relationship “should” look. There are times when you can find yourself in love with more than one person at the same time. Each relationship has its own unique values.
    The marriage license is a contract between three parties, the husband, wife and state. I do not want the marriage contract. What did people do before the marriage contract? The marriage contract gives the state the right to the fruits of the relationship, including the offsprings. Only God knows the heart of man. I have met and seen women love the same man openly and it was not any more of a challenge than a typical monogamous relationships. Let’s pray and wish the best for all of those in relationships. Relationships can be hard work. May all of you be blessed.

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