OPINION — The children continue to get the worst of it in the polygamous fundamentalist Mormon community on the Utah-Arizona state line.
We’ve known this, unfortunately, for a while; however, the point was driven home again last week in paperwork filed with the 5th District Juvenile Court in St. George by Charlene Wall Jeffs.
Jeffs, 58, has filed for divorce from Lyle Jeffs, who took over the day-to-day operations of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when his brother, Warren Jeffs – the self-proclaimed prophet of the church – was sentenced to a life-plus sentence in Texas on multiple charges of child rape.
Charlene Jeffs was the first of Lyle Jeffs’ nine wives, the only one he was legally married to, with the remainder taken as so-called “spiritual wives.”
Charlene is also asking the court for custody of the couple’s two youngest children – a 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son – because of church practices she described as “illegal.”
According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, the documents “discuss life in the FLDS under her husband and his imprisoned brother, Warren Jeffs – from restrictive diets to sexual policies that she refers to as rape.”
Of course, that’s not news to those familiar with the fundamentalist sect.
Read more: On the EDge: FLDS kids pawns in tug of war
We know, for example, that Warren Jeffs is not the only one in that community to think there is nothing wrong with taking an underage child as a bride, that others share his perversion. We know that “bleeding the beast” – the act of defrauding the government, whether at the federal, state or local levels – is part of the lifestyle.
We know that women’s rights are nonexistent, a fact Charlene Jeffs addresses in court documents saying, according to The Trib: “Of Lyle’s multiple wives, I was never the favorite because I have a mind of my own. Lyle sent me away from the family to repent for the first time in November 2002 because ‘I did not know how to properly treat the Priesthood in my life.’ ”
For the uninitiated, the Priesthood refers to the men in the FLDS faith, to whom women must succumb in this life and the next. The reason FLDS women grow their hair so long, according to church doctrine, is so they can unravel it and use it to wash the feet of their husbands when they reach the Celestial Kingdom, where they will, for eternity, pump out spirit babies to return to the Earth.
What is shocking is that the wealth of evidence about what goes on out there in the twin cities, commonly referred to as Short Creek – Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona – was ignored by Judge Paul Dame, who ruled that the children were in no imminent danger and refused to place them in the custody of their mother or into protective custody. Instead, he set a date for oral arguments to discuss the allegations.
By then, as Charlene Jeffs says, those kids could be hidden away in FLDS communities in Pringle, South Dakota, any one of several church locations in rural Colorado, or spirited away to fundamentalist enclaves in western Canada or one of several communes in Mexico.
We know of the recent incident where the 17-year-old daughter of former FLDS member Ron Rohbock, who was extricated from Short Creek by authorities, was kidnapped in broad daylight from a strip mall in Mesquite by fundamentalists.
We know of 11 other men who went to jail in Texas for sexually abusing little girls they took as spiritual wives at the Eldorado compound.
We know of the case of Fredrick Merril Jessop, a 79-year-old church elder in this sect, who not only turned over as many as 11 of his daughters to Warren Jeffs but performed the spiritual marriage of his 12-year-old daughter to this pedophile.
We know of the conviction of former cop Rodney Holm, who took an underage wife.
We know of Warren Jeffs placing the then-14-year-old Elissa Wall into marriage with her cousin.
We also know of several deaths that have occurred when young boys were working illegally or with heavy machinery they were neither old enough nor licensed to operate.
Yet, this judge has ruled that these children are in no imminent danger.
What will it take for those who can truly make a difference to intervene?
What more needs to be presented to the court?
Perhaps the fact that at one point Warren Jeffs issued an edict from his prison cell that all of the women and children in his following were restricted to a diet of beans and water? Perhaps the fact that Warren Jeffs issued an edict from his prison cell that banned all but 15 men – whom he named – from having sexual relations with their wives and that these men had their pick of any fertile females in the community to procreate with?
Justice has not been served in this case.
But, we have grown accustomed to the Utah courts turning a blind eye to the evil perpetuated upon the women and children of this polygamous fundamentalist group.
In her statement to the court, Charlene Jeffs says that she has been “excluded” from the lives of these two children for three years.
All because, she said, she had a mind of her own.
It is time for us to see judges with minds of their own who are willing to buck the Utah system and bring justice to the aggrieved and injured because they happened, by the unfortunate luck of birth, to be born into a group that has a history of heaping emotional, physical and spiritual trauma on innocent women and children. They are the unwitting victims.
All it takes is a judge with courage.
And, a mind of his own.
- Crisis of faith: FLDS migration to mainstream Mormonism; Oprah special details Warren Jeffs’ crimes
- On the EDge: FLDS kids pawns in tug of war
- Forklift accident resulting in child death, answers not forthcoming
- 14-year-old boy dies operating forklift in Colorado City
- FLDS ‘concentration camp’ goes up in Colorado City; UEP must evict or lose land
- Judge calls for eviction of FLDS residents delinquent on fees
- Warren Jeffs’ Hildale compound bought by former bodyguard
- On the EDge: Jeffs’ latest edict requires immediate response by law enforcement
- On the EDge: Straightening out the UEP mess? Hardly
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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