Those We Don’t Protect: Crimes by The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints

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A 12-year-old girl rides in the backseat of a van to a remote location. She is unaware of where she is going, how much further is left, and when she will arrive. She sits quietly next to her mother. There aren’t enough tears left within to cry any longer. The girl asks, “What does he think about this marriage? How does he feel about marrying a child?”

Her father nonchalantly replies from the front seat, “Oh, he’s done it before.”

This is a very real tale of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints community in the United States. The experiences of FLDS children, including but not limited to brainwashing, coercion, and most notably, child marriages, resulted in harrowing effects on their childhoods. Issues such as child marriage are not only the reality for FLDS children but also tens of thousands of children around the nation. Today, under specific conditions, child marriage is legal in 44 U.S. states, due to extensive loopholes that put children in danger of predators, assault, and trauma. The FLDS is one example of what can occur when legislation doesn’t prioritize the rights and safety of young people. To better understand the larger conversation on national child marriage, it is imperative to look into such groups and observe how the law enables such a heinous crime.

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, initially founded in 1856, branched off from the Mormon faith to ensure its followers could practice polygamy. Today, however, the Southern Poverty Law Center labels FLDS a “white-supremacist, homophobic, anti-government, totalitarian cult.” Young boys are raised to believe that it is their right to have multiple wives, and young girls are taught that their life’s purpose is to obey their husbands. The church’s modern leaders, the late Rulon Jeffs, and his son, convicted predator Warren Jeffs, are responsible for normalizing this thought process. Both Rulon and Warren Jeffs have held the position of Prophet — the man believed to have been called on by God to lead the FLDS community away from eternal damnation. With this power over the community, both created a culture of fear, especially among the women he dominated.

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