New documentary explores abuse in polygamist sect

Austin American-Statesman/November 19, 2009

After the convictions of Raymond Jessop and Arkansas evangelist Tony Alamo on child sex abuse charges earlier this month, it was chilling to view "Damned to Heaven," a documentary about the long-term emotional and psychological damage faced by women forced into polygamist marriages.

The film features interviews with former wives who were part of the Colorado City, Ariz.-based polygamist sect known as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, which has about 10,000 followers in Arizona and Utah. The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago and does not recognize the FLDS. "Damned to Heaven" begins airing on the The Documentary Channel this week and explores the society that shaped Warren Jeffs, another sect leader.

He promoted the idea that participating in plural marriage was a requirement to get into heaven. "We don't have branches on our family trees, we have trunks and leaves," a woman in the movie said. As one woman puts it, "if that's what heaven is, I'll accept hell. Heaven ain't nothin' nice for babies, if that's what heaven is."

It's one thing to think about the long-term consequences of child sex abuse perpetrated by members claiming to be sanctioned by God. The documentary interviews former men who were banished from the sect because they refused to marry multiple wives, as well as adults who remember growing up with 74 siblings and 19 mothers.

"My 19 mothers didn't have a relationship with my father," the adult daughter of a woman who had been one of many wives in the sect said. "They were objects to him, not women."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.