Late last night, because I couldn’t sleep, I purchased “Prophet’s Prey” by Sam Brower and downloaded it on my Kindle reader. Rather than slowly nodding off as planned, I was immediately so immersed in the horrific story Brower told that I stayed up reading well after my eyes itched painfully with tiredness.
After Brower, a private investigator, was contacted by a family who tried to leave a secretive compound on the border of Southern Utah, he became fascinated with the criminal history of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Initially, he had misgivings; after all, these stories he heard were almost too tragic to be true. However, during the course of over seven years, Brower uncovered evidence that allowed him to spearhead the prosecution of the FLDS Prophet, Warren Jeffs, and begin Jeffs’ accusation and conviction on counts of child abuse, rape, financial fraud, and innumerable other crimes.
Brower does not shy away from calling Jeffs and his cohorts what they are–perverted old men with insatiable appetites for booze, power, money, and sex with underage girls and boys. He is, as he should be, completely biased against Jeffs and leaves no room for other interpretation on that count.
However, Brower can’t help sliding in edgewise a defense of the modern Mormon Church, of which he is a member. He, parroting Church authorities, completely eschews the practice of polygamy as a fringe behavior practiced only by the FLDS and a handful of early Mormon leaders. He believes the FLDS has full responsibility for the crimes they commit in southern Utah.
Which, in literal practice, they do. Nobody made Warren Jeffs, who was the principal of his own private polygamist “academy”, secret little boys away and brutally gang rape them in “sacred” priesthood initiation rites. Nobody forced him and his cohorts to take girls as young as 12 years old to wife, and rape them as well. Nobody held a literal gun to the head of the mothers and fathers who abandoned their young sons on the side of the desert I-15 highway so all the girls could be reserved for the old men (earning the ditched male teens the name of “Lost Boys”).
But to restrict the issue only to FLDS behavior doesn’t tell the whole story. You’ve got to do a little digging to find the rest. The Mormon Church, despite their voracious attempts to distance themselves from the FLDS, are undeniably and ever so intimately complicit in the damnable behavior in southern Utah, which continues to this day.
Gordon B. Hinckley, a much-beloved LDS prophet who passed away only a few years ago, strongly stated that “this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church.” All modern Church members will hasten to agree. If you use the search term “polygamy” on Mormon.org, nothing comes up except profiles of smiling teens with pithy little statements like, “I love pizza. I’m a Mormon.” They completely ignore the issue whenever possible because the inevitably ensuing conversation is not pleasant or comfortable or easily explained.
Because what Hinckley won’t say is that the Mormon book of scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, is exactly what FLDS polygamists use to back up their belief in the righteousness of polygamy–and that it is still in the modern Mormon canon. Not only is it in the canon, but the scripture itself insists that polygamy is a “new and everlasting covenant”–not something that can be easily broken by the sundry demands of the US government, as when then-prophet Wilford Woodruff revealed God’s sudden change of heart that Mormons stop practicing–and that “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter to [God’s] glory.”
And not only will the Church try to cover up their modern involvement with polygamy–they have also attempted to completely rewrite their past to avoid the uncomfortable discussion. Meet with missionaries for the first time, and they won’t talk about polygamy. Fresh-faced 18 year-old boys out preaching the immutability of Mormonism probably won’t even know that Joseph Smith had upwards of forty five wives; and if confronted with that fact, they frequently will react with outraged denial.
But the facts are these: Joseph Smith had at least 33 wives; historian Fawn Brodie documents as many as 48 in her biography of Smith, titled No Man Knows My History. Subsequent prophets and apostles, including Brigham Young, practiced polygamy and encouraged others to do the same. Polygamy, the everlasting covenant, was only officially halted in 1890, when God conveniently changed his mind pursuant to the United States government threatening to seize Church property and throw leadership in jail. But Mormon leadership sent offshoots of polygamists to Canada, southern Utah, Arizona, and Mexico to continue the divine practice.
Modern Mormon lore loves to evoke sympathy from current members and converts by telling the story of Joseph Smith’s mythical tarring and feathering–the tale is often told as proof that Satan was working hard to halt the work of the Lord from taking place. According to the current version, the poor, innocent prophet was dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night and tortured by an angry mob for no reason except that he was trying to do God’s will. The story is printed in illustrated storybooks that are given to young Mormons, and is often used as a parable in adult church sessions.
What the Church won’t tell you is the most important part of the story–that this angry mob was comprised of the fathers , husbands, and brothers of the young women that Joseph Smith was claiming God told him to marry, and then often consummating that “marriage” with sex. There were also members in the mob whose wives had left their husbands, hoodwinked by Smith’s charm and convincing preaching, and were spiritually wedded to him as well. The mob arrived at Smith’s house originally intending to castrate him for what they–correctly–believed where the sexual sins he committed against their loved ones. However, the doctor who was to perform the castration got cold feet, and the insatiable mob did indeed end up tarring and feathering Smith–a judgment he was probably lucky to get away with, considering the take-justice-into-your-own-hands fervor of the time. The persecution that the early Mormon faith faced had less to do with Satan’s hold on the hearts of men than the bizarre practices that members held dear; and so it was that they were chased out of every state until they found refuge in Utah.
The continued perpetuity of this fictional account of events is evidence that the Mormon Church is anything but prepared to be honest about its polygamist roots. Any attempts made by non-members, or even current members, to expose Smith’s extensive wife-taking, or criticism of Church history in general, is met with the cry of “You are an anti-Mormon!” and immediately written off as Satan having gotten hold of the hard hearts of men to try to stop the work of the Lord. Mormons are instructed to never even look at “anti-Mormon literature” (which, when published by organizations run by Evangelical Christians, is admittedly pretty stupid and unbelievable). However, this means that most Mormons have no idea of the true nature of their Church’s polygamist roots.
But the true crux of Mormon complicity in FLDS polygamy comes not from mainstream Mormonism’s history. It comes from its future. This is where any denial truly becomes nothing but (pardon my French) steaming, stinking bullshit. Because any member who is even mildly familiar with Church doctrine believes that the divine commandment of polygamy will be reinstated when the heathen gentiles are ready for it–probably beginning during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and then for the rest of eternity. God will inflict His will on the entire world, and the Mormon Church leaves no doubt that part of that sacred will is to practice polygamy.
How can modern Mormons decry FLDS polygamy, and then usher in its renewed dispensation hand-in-hand with God’s impending return? How can they today, right here, right now, continue to allow men to be spiritually “sealed” forever to more than one woman, but only allow women to be sealed to one man–and then deny that they practice polygamy? Why, when receiving their temple rituals, must the woman give her husband her “spiritual name” so that, once past the veil of death, he may call her name and locate her and other wives–but he mustn’t give her his? I know these little details sound bizarre, but bear with me here. These seemingly little details are screaming signs pointing to the fact that modern Mormonism is not only entirely hypocritical in condemning FLDS polygamy. They are still very much entrenched in it themselves.
Seems pretty unequivocal, doesn’t it? Despite the fact that Mormons claim they have nothing to do with the FLDS, they actually have everything to do with it–they began the practice, and they continue to preach its eventual restoration. And, because the Mormon Church has such a strong foothold in Utah’s financial, political, and legal department, the ability to take action against the abuse in southern Utah is entirely within their reach. Ask yourself why they aren’t doing anything.
Never has the LDS Church admitted to or apologized for their liabilities–and I doubt they ever will. However, to continue to insist that they have nothing to do with this “breakaway” FLDS sect is simply dishonest, and their continued reluctance to take responsibility allows the enormous entity that is modern Mormonism, with massive power to do good, to simply turn their head the other way. Is the Mormon Church really interested in the welfare of children? Do they truly believe that they use their finances for good in the world? Then let them take a close look at the environment that they fostered by their own doctrine; let them pay for the lawyers, the investigators, and any other means possible to prosecute the men who are sexually abusing young children; let them admit responsibility for the revelation of polygamy, and for the belief that someday it will again be reinstated; let them actually do something good for once, and better the lives of the people who they, albeit long ago, helped ruin. Let them take responsibility. Let them, for once, be Christlike.