OPINION – Human frailty is never more evident, they say, than on the occasions of marriages, births, and funerals.
We saw a sad example of that just days ago when the cops had to be called in to keep the peace when a local man and his siblings tried to pay their respects to their mother at Heideman Hughes Mortuary in St. George, only to be turned away by other family members.
Read news story here: FLDS family funeral feud; exiled brothers blocked from seeing mother before burial
This wasn’t, however, your typical family feud. Instead, it was the remnant of a long-standing religious feud within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
It all began with the passing of Loana Silvester Harker Barlow Broadbent, 81, from complications resulting from a heart attack. Those familiar with the history of the area known as Short Creek – Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona – will recognize the familial names as those who were integral to the migration south of those who became disenfranchised from the mainstream LDS church and came to the area to practice the polygamous lifestyle of the FLDS.
Over the years, there were power struggles within the fledgling sect, the most recent with the passing of Rulon Jeffs, who was the FLDS leader until his death in 2002.
Shortly after his passing, his son, Warren Jeffs, proclaimed himself the prophet of the church and took iron-fisted control over this group of Mormon fundamentalists. There was a power struggle at that time between Warren Jeffs and Louis Barlow, who was also a member of the FLDS hierarchy.
Warren Jeffs was subsequently charged with sex crimes in Utah, Arizona, and Texas and placed behind bars. But, he still held a death-grip on his followers, manipulating them from prisons in Utah and then Texas. His paranoia over losing control ran so deep that his relationships with brothers Lyle and Nephi were in on-again, off-again status. He continued to play such a role in the FLDS culture that he decided who would marry whom; the nutritional requirements for women and children, who were placed on a beans and water diet; the migration of followers from the ranch in Texas to other points in Colorado and South Dakota; and who would and would not retain membership. He even ordered that married couples refrain from sexual activity, that only a select group of men would be allowed to father the next generation of FLDS followers, men of his choosing.
Halso excommunicated a number of followers who displeased him, including, not surprisingly, Jeremiah Barlow and several of his siblings whose only sin was being the offspring of one of Warren Jeffs’ strongest opponents.
This is what happens in cults, when one holds the power over those who are led to believe they are doing God’s will.
This is nothing really new on our societal landscape. We saw it in Jonestown, we saw it in Waco, Texas. We saw it among the followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, L. Ron Hubbard, and, yes, that evil coterie in the southern California desert led by Charles Manson.
How these people gain such an upper hand is one for the psychologists to explain, all I know is that it can prove dangerous when a wee segment of the population separates and insulates itself from the rest of society.
But, this, again, should be nothing new for those who study Warren Jeffs and the FLDS culture and the practice/habit of tossing people from the community.
Most of those excommunicated, of course, are young men, removed from the church and community because there are not enough women to sustain the polygamous lifestyle of those who live in Short Creek. Others are tossed because of charges of apostasy. Some, as in the case of Jeremiah Barlow, simply because of their bloodline.
I know a young man who was excommunicated and wound up on the streets of Los Angeles, the victim of numerous abuses as a result of no education and a lifetime of indoctrination. He was so shattered by his childhood in the FLDS community that when the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon took place he believed that one of Warren Jeffs’ prophesies about “blood in the streets” being the sign that the walls of the prison that held him would come tumbling down was coming to fruition. The young man went into full panic mode, terrified that the self-proclaimed prophet, or one of his followers, would track him down for further abuse. The mere mention of some names connected to the FLDS community is enough to send him into hiding in his closet, shaking with fear.
There’s another young man I know living in Las Vegas who is under the care and guidance of a woman who was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused during her years in the polygamous lifestyle. The young man was also removed from the community at a young age simply because there were too many males and not enough females to sustain the polygamous lifestyle.
So, no, this isn’t your ordinary family feud. This is the result of a personal vendetta by a man who claims to talk to God; a man who has soaked his followers’ brains – from cradle to grave – with the belief that only those who follow his instruction will find salvation; a man who, as we have learned, was a sexual predator of children; a man whose lust for power, sex, and money overwhelmed any sense of decency he may have been born with.
I understand Loana Silvester Harker Barlow Broadbent was a kind and decent woman, a longtime teacher in Short Creek, that she touched many lives in a positive manner, and we mourn her passing.
I only wish all of her children would have had an opportunity to say goodbye.
They were separated from her through no fault of their own.
No bad days!
- FLDS family funeral feud; exiled brothers blocked from seeing mother before burial
- Colorado City police chief admits corruption; AG calls for disbandment of FLDS marshals
- Judge calls for eviction of FLDS residents delinquent on fees
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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