Polygamy Dos and Don'ts

Utah and Arizona compile an amateur's guide to Mormon fundamentalism.

Slate/September 18, 2007

Last week, the criminal trial of Warren Jeffs began in Washington County, Utah. Jeffs is the so-called prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, a Mormon breakaway faction that practices polygamy. Jeffs stands accused of being accomplice to rape in the 2001 forced marriage of a 14-year-old sect member to her 19-year-old cousin. A fugitive for two years prior to his 2006 arrest, Jeffs is the son of Rulon Jeffs, who led FLDS until his 2002 death. The character Roman Grant, played by Harry Dean Stanton in the HBO series Big Love, is based loosely on Rulon Jeffs, and the character Alby Grant, played by Matt Ross, is similarly inspired by Warren Jeffs.

The religious group's headquarters in Utah lies a whisker from the Arizona border. In 2006, both states' attorneys general, concerned over the effects of the widespread but illegal practice of polygamy, jointly released a 57-page primer on the topic for use by "human services professionals, law enforcement officers and others" (excepts below and on the following six pages). The training manual says FLDS has 10,000 members (Page 6) and calls Jeffs' sect "the most restrictive and isolated" (Page 7) of all Mormon fundamentalist groups. Former FLDS members report being taught that "the Holocaust never existed and that the government fabricated the story of man landing on the moon in order to hide tax money" (Page 7).

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