Pray and obey

“Pray and Obey” was birthed from the Father’s heart for that segment of the church experiencing financial trauma, and those suffering from the temporary hardship of a limited or fixed income. A major problem exists in the Body of Christ when nearly one third cannot afford the teaching materials necessary for growth towards maturity; the remainder of us dare not ignore their cries!

“Pray and Obey” is intended to fulfill the Lord’s direction in II Corinthians 8:12-15 (NKJV):

For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.  For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack that there may be equality.  As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

“Pray and Obey” is a covenant of obedience.  It is NOT a buy-sell agreement.  It is our sincerest desire that every believer learn to hear the “still small voice” of the Father.  Giving out of “revealed need” instead of “apparent need” frees us from manipulation and is the fruit of developing a relationship with our heavenly Father.  We want to do all we can to encourage you to develop that relationship.

We must realize God is serious about covenant.  Just as God holds Word At Work Ministries accountable to offer the Word “Pray and Obey,” the Lord will hold the receiver accountable to respond in obedience.

When you give to Word At Work Ministries, you help a variety of believers receiving material in North America, Europe, Australia and leadership in third world countries.  Thank you so much for faithfully obeying the Holy Spirit in your giving!

www.wordatwork.org

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A Polygamist Cult’s Last Stand: The Rise and Fall of Warren Jeffs

Previously,

1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by Joe in Australia (50 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

Heartbreaking, especially for the little kids growing up in this system and never knowing any different.

posted by orrnyereg at 4:12 AM on February 14, 2016

Stuff like this:

Jeffs would sneak up behind students in class, grabbing them by the neck and whispering things like, “Are you keeping sweet or do you need to be punished?”

is absolutely skin-crawling.

posted by orrnyereg at 4:15 AM on February 14, 2016

Thank goodness for the healing gift of fundamentalists and the orthodox. They’re the best argument against religion.

posted by nevercalm at 4:57 AM on February 14, 2016

I don’t think this guy’s an argument against anything much except loony people. (Coincidentally enough, I typed “loonies gonna loon” into Google and the second hit was a discussion thread about Warren Jeffs.)

posted by Wolfdog at 5:03 AM on February 14, 2016

The Showtime doc Prophet’s Prey is chilling in part because it uses Jeffs’ recordings as the VO. It’s disgusting and terrible , but also opened my eyes to the why and how the FLDS have survived for so long. I had no idea that they owned such successful building companies. Whatever awfulness goes on in their compounds , they are good engineers. They’re not living in ratholes – their compound in Texas had a water treatment plant!

It also led me down a rabbit hole reading about the history of the Mormon church and Joseph Smith, who was himself a polygamist married to a 14 year old girl and other men’s wives. Warren Jeffs just took it one more terrible step.

posted by bluefly at 5:30 AM on February 14, 2016

So I’ve just finished reading

Escape

by Carolyn Jessop, who left the FLDS in the early 2000s.

She has her own criticisms of polygamy – that it is inherently unstable, leading to an excess of boys and problems in families. But, as well, the FLDS became much more extreme under Rulon and then Warren Jeffs. Marriages were arranged before, but weren’t underage.

As well, the FLDS are only one of a couple of polygamist Mormon groups: one split from the FLDS in the 1950s and doesn’t practice “placement marriage” (that is, the prophet assigning people in marriage) – I believe this is the sect that the participants on Sister Wives belong to. Another group split from the FLDS in the 1980s, when there were debates about the authority of the prophet (they thought the prophet should be advised by senior men in the sect, the FLDS believed the prophet had absolute authority).

posted by jb at 5:46 AM on February 14, 2016

A building designer friend of mine walked through the Temple in DC before it was quite finished. She said what was amazing was the level of craftsmanship. There were blue painter tape flags (denoting a flaw that needs fixing) on spots and nicks that were almost invisible. Every detail had to be perfect. This same need for UTTER CONTROL and inability to accept ambiguity and imperfections in any form seems to me to be at the heart of the Mormon church.

posted by jfwlucy at 5:58 AM on February 14, 2016

Semi-related story: I became a Humanist Celebrant (basically the Humanist equivalent of a minister) several years back. The very first wedding I performed was for two people who had escaped from the Warren Jeffs cult about a decade before, having been childhood friends, and had found each other by chance in the time since.

The groom was actually kicked out in order to keep the male/female ratio proper for polygamy. That’s one of the things you rarely ever hear about the polygamist communities, but it makes sense if you think about it. They will find flimsy excuses to get rid of even slightly problematic men just so there’s more women available.

The bride escaped from her prior marriage with her children after her “husband” moved them to a different town. She was able to get away easily because she was a “second wife,” so it wasn’t legally recognized and she had no divorce paperwork to contend with. The officiant that had made her a “second wife” at the time? Warren Jeffs himself.

posted by mystyk at 6:15 AM on February 14, 2016

Awful, absolutely horrible from beginning to end. I know the ending tried to add a little comic relief, but it didn’t help. One or two bishops I’ve had (an American might say the more liberal ones) openly welcome discussion of the church’s past (e.g the unwritten prohibition on ordaining black men ended by

Official Declaration 2

), and the policies of plural marriage that started with Smith and ended with Woodruff). Even then, the very existence of splinter groups like the FLDS is something people wince involuntarily about and turn their heads when it’s mentioned.

At the risk of huge understatement, such men as Jeffs have no business in speaking for God or claiming to be his prophets. Nor can any of his followers who oppresses his neighbour, threatens his life or uses his family as weapons believably claim to do so as a Christian.

Sometimes I wonder whether the kinds of progressively worsening horror that we see in certain isolated, patriarchal religious communities (establishment of autocrats, formation of male oligarchies, subjugation of women, abuse of children) is something inevitable, like radioactive decay or the spread of a malignant tumour. Is it a product of the character of the leaders themselves, the corrupting influence of power, the unquestioning obedience of the people they lead, our personal urge for conformity and acceptance, or something deep in the heart of human nature?

I was a little glad to see that some things in Short Creek have improved marginally in some ways, with the serendipitous defanging of the UEP and the potential return of ‘apostates’ cast out from their homes by supposedly divine fiat, but the widespread polarization, the turning of women and men against their friends and loved ones, the suffering, can have no good outcome any time soon.

posted by The Zeroth Law at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2016

The one bright spot in the whole thing was the apostate who had returned and opened Short Creek’s only (and likely first) coffee shop. I would have liked to hear more from him, honestly, but in my imagination it’s a mission of his, to provide a safe third space where people can visit with their neighbors and be in community and to bear witness that it’s okay to live outside the church and drink coffee.

posted by hydropsyche at 7:17 AM on February 14, 2016

It also led me down a rabbit hole reading about the history of the Mormon church and Joseph Smith, who was himself a polygamist married to a 14 year old girl and other men’s wives.

Now I’m no fan of the Mormon church, either mainline or splinter sects, for a whole variety of reasons, but my understanding is that there’s a whole lot of debate among historians about whether those allegations were accurate or were just slanders spread by early opponents of Smith.

posted by Itaxpica at 7:26 AM on February 14, 2016

The Venn diagram of destructive religious beliefs and screwed up notions of sex and sexuality shows high overlap. There was an interesting NYT OpEd about how this dynamic relates to Muslim extremists yesterday

here.
posted by carmicha at 7:35 AM on February 14, 2016

The Zeroth Law

: “

Is it a product of the character of the leaders themselves, the corrupting influence of power, the unquestioning obedience of the people they lead, our personal urge for conformity and acceptance, or something deep in the heart of human nature?

All of those things? And also, almost every place you find a church/religious body this sick, you will find a lack of appropriate oversight. Like, Catholicism around 30 years ago cleaned up its repeated financial scandals in the US by introducing modern financial oversights and audits, including outside, disinterested auditors, but did not, at that time, bother with modern HR procedures, which gave pedophiles room to keep hiding. (The switch to more modern HR procedures is ongoing and dioceses that are handling abuse well are already using them, and dioceses that are still paying tort settlements like whoa have not bothered.)

With fundamentalist Mormons, fundamentalist Baptists, evangelical megachurches, groups like that, the total independence of each local church from any kind of oversight structure is a really key ingredient in how they achieve and perpetuate such horrible, corrupt, damaging systems. You could be the boss of Mormonism and tell Warren Jeffs tomorrow, “Hey, we’ve decided we agree with all your teachings and they are authoritative and you can rejoin the mainstream LDS as a respected leader” and he wouldn’t do it, because the level of institutional management the LDS has would expose and shut down his worst abuses.

I spent some time early in my legal career advising religious organizations on this sort of thing, especially the ones transitioning to more modern financial and HR procedures as the scale of clergy abuse became clear, and it was true across the board in all religious groups that the harder they work to avoid operational oversight, the easier it is for abuses to flourish and the more abuses are probably going on. Now, “oversight” doesn’t have to mean a large institutional church like the Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion (and, indeed, part of the issue is that those bodies saw themselves as supervising theology but not so much in charge of business aspects, although, again, this has shifted quite a bit) — like, a bunch of independent fundamentalist Baptists have created a network that develops financial and HR best practices and disseminates updates on those practices to member churches and locate and identify accountants and lawyers and other such people who are up to date on their issues and can work with them — but specifically and virulently make the point that creeds are a local issue, this is 100% about office management. It’s a pretty good network and churches that join it and make use of it tend to be “cleaner.” Or, other local single-congregation religious groups have a lay oversight board and hire outside auditors, that can work too. Typically you want to make policies and procedures, and high-level accounts, available to the congregation for review.

But yeah, if there’s no management going on, or if all the management is a secret, they’re either lying about where the money comes from and goes to, or they’re hiding other, uglier human abuses. You can count on it.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 AM on February 14, 2016

there’s a whole lot of debate among historians about whether those allegations were accurate

Unfortunately, while there were plenty of malicious accusations levelled at members/leaders of the Church at that time (partly due to serious friction between established denominations and the newer ones, and the relative isolation of some of the Church’s early communities, allowing rumours to proliferate unchecked), the number of women to whom Joseph Smith was sealed (and their ages) is supported by considerable evidence, by LDS and non-LDS historians.

A Metafilter thread on a NYTimes article from two years ago. And the essay referred to is still hosted on the Church’s own website.

posted by The Zeroth Law at 7:41 AM on February 14, 2016

You pray

He preys

posted by caddis at 7:42 AM on February 14, 2016

The Rolling Stone article forgets about entire towns named Kingston, dotted across the west, that are Kingston clan towns. Washakie Renewable Energy a Kingston company was raided by the feds this week, for having made no bio diesel yet, but bleeding the beast of government for millions of dollars in renewable energy grants. The Kingstons are big in coal, and many other businesses. They are easily as incestuous as the FLDS, but better at effecting normalcy and big business. This group came into the harsh light when one of the Kingston brothers belt whipped his 16 year old daughter for refusing to marry his middle aged brother. Their practice of having wives use welfare to survive, came to light, and one of the leaders wives was forbidden to subject her children to his presence until some stringent guidelines were met. This is all a joke, because of the ubiquity of these clans their economic and political power.

The UAB another group also effecting more normalcy (Kody Brown’s group,) doesn’t allow women to manage money, they are also good at business and science; they own ATK Thiokol.

Polygamy across the west echoes the extreme right wing mindset in the states of Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Northern Arizona. Aside from the extremely rich and well organized sects, the DIY polygs are not to be out done, one fellow, the infamous Tom Green, made it his habit to marry women and their teenaged daughters. The phrase sister wives is not as innocuous as you are led to believe on TV, marrying sisters is a popular practice.

Holding up the Jeffs group to scorn is the low hanging fruit, they are like the Utah/Arizona strip hillbillies. The rest are much more innocuous except for the part where they have a strong socio-political impact, and run on enslavement and the concomitant sexual enslavement of women and children.

posted by Oyéah at 8:33 AM on February 14, 2016

Wow. It’s amazing how much hurt and one person with a mental illness can inflict on the world.

Because there’s obviously something about this guy’s brain that isn’t normal. My first inclination, whenever I read about cult leaders like this, is to assume that they’re just sociopaths who are cynically manipulating their followers, and are (at least partly) aware that their dogma is nonsense. But this:

At one point, he was praying so much that open wounds began to fester on his knees, and prison officials had to chain him to the wall, forcing him to stand. … “He’s got a boatload of mental illnesses,” Brower says. “I believe he’s schizophrenic, that he really hears voices.”

…suggests that maybe he really does believe it all. Grandiose delusions, particularly those of a religious character, are common in schizophrenics, and those with a range of other disorders. (Obviously I’m just some dude on the Internet; not a credentialed psychiatrist doing a proper evaluation.)

And it’s equally sad how this guy seems to have inherited it from his father (through a combination of genetics and upbringing, probably).

You have to wonder how a person so disturbed can be so skilled at manipulating the people around him. It takes more than one person with a malfunctioning brain to create a situation like this: the same guy would probably just be the local eccentric in many places. But the world he was born into was predisposed to cultivate and accept a megalomaniacal leader: he was the son of a respected and beloved (and probably feared) patriarch, and he was born into an isolated community that was already primed to believe—indeed, centered around—ideas of messianism and apocalypse and segregation from the broader world. It reminds me of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

The whole thing reminds me of Rajneeshpuram (podcast link), a New Age cult / community established in rural Oregon in 1981, which endured for several years before collapsing. In many ways, it was very different than Short Creek—but in others, it’s very much the same story (although somewhat less sad). As in White Creek, the cult took over the governments and economies of nearby communities, engaged in spying and harassment and conspiracy to silence their enemies, and established their own police forces which didn’t feel obliged to answer to state or federal jurisdiction.

I suspect that this is more-or-less how all religions begin: one person with a mental disorder and a knack for manipulating vulnerable people (cynically or not) manages to turn their delusions into a dogma and a community. Most end up failing—because the restrictions of their dogma either leaves them unable to sustain a community, or brings them into conflict with other people around them, or because the prophet abuses the piety of his followers to such a degree that schisms tear the thing apart. (It’s notable, and sad, just how far a prophet can go before this happens.)

A few such cults, however, manage to catch on—their dogma and leaders are nimble enough to avoid the worst of the pathologies that doom other nascent religious communities; or they manage to resist (or conquer) their neighbors and rivals through superior military force (Christianity or Islam); or they’re so well funded and so good at controlling their followers that there’s seemingly no limit to the abuses they can get away with (Scientology or Catholicism).

Centuries or millenia later, those dogmas that started out as the voices inside one person’s head have become so much a part of history and the culture around us that they’ve become normalized. The Short Creeks and Rajneeshpurams and Scientologies of the world look like wackadoodle cults, whereas Christianity and Islam and Hinduism (and the rest) have consolidated their power to such a degree that they don’t need to come into conflict with the broader culture: they are the culture. They no longer need to insulate their followers from the outside world to preserve their faith, because there is no outside world—most of the people around them believe the same thing.

Anyway. Sad story, but good article. Thanks for the post.

posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:45 AM on February 14, 2016

>As well, the FLDS are only one of a couple of polygamist Mormon groups…

I have heard from a reliable source that the other groups are actively trying to recruit members of Jeffs’ group, sometimes by way of ‘concerned’ old ladies. I’ve heard a lot about what’s going on up there, it’s a larger and more shocking than one can imagine.

It’s pretty well known that the FLDS sheriff in Short Creek is using a stingray or similar device to gather intel on people coming into the area.

The other thing I want to mention that I’ve heard happening is how (let’s just say Hollywood) producers will come into town wanting to buy the rights to someone’s story. These are people who are broke with kids, have just left a cult they’ve been in their whole life, married and pregnant at a young age, etc. And now someone wants to buy exclusive rights to their story to profit off their suffering, and that would forbid them from telling their story or giving interviews in the future. It’s no wonder they are distrustful of outsiders.

posted by Catblack at 9:09 AM on February 14, 2016

Wow. It’s amazing how much hurt and one person with a mental illness can inflict on the world.

I think we should avoid focusing on Jeffs as this one mentally ill guy who really took things in a weird direction. All of these cults have many things in common, which are not Warren Jeffs.

posted by klanawa at 9:12 AM on February 14, 2016

I think it’s fair to focus on Jeffs in the context that there’s still a large number of people who are loyal to him, he’s been issuing doomsday prophecies from jail, and you have

things like this

happening in the area.

posted by Catblack at 9:27 AM on February 14, 2016

There’s a picture of some girls in hit pink dresses with the caption they are watching clean up from a flood.

It looks like some of the girls have shaved or partially shaved heads. It doesn’t look like a normal pony tail.

Is that just a weird pic or is there some thing about girls having close cut hair for some reason until they’re married? There are two with bouffant styles that I’m guessing are married. (“married”?) they all look way under 18.

posted by sio42 at 9:29 AM on February 14, 2016

Was it the leader of Latin Kings who was not allowed to send or receive letters, calls or visits? I think the same thing is appropriate here. I find the whole thing a tragedy. A frankly communistic, right wing, systematically aristocratic hamlet hidden in America for 70 years. Chilling.

posted by parmanparman at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2016

Joseph Smith, who was himself a polygamist married to a 14 year old girl and other men’s wives.my understanding is that there’s a whole lot of debate among historians about whether those allegations were accurate or were just slanders spread by early opponents of Smith.

People probably mean Helen Kimball when they’re invoking a 14 year old bride. There’s some debate among historians about the character of this and other marriages, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, there’s no substantial challenge to the idea that this happened with Kimball and with others.

posted by weston at 9:38 AM on February 14, 2016

sio42, they’re not allowed to cut their hair. I think what you’re seeing as shaved is just pulled back tight into a bun. Yes, some of them do that FLDS swirl with their hair in front… it’s a style they affect.

posted by RedEmma at 9:43 AM on February 14, 2016

FWIW I’ve got some distant relatives who are part of the Jeffs groups–2nd cousin-ish.

They joined the group in about the 1950s. Some of our mutual relatives would stop by & visit them once in a while and we would get the occasional report. But I don’t think any relatives outside the FLDS been allowed to visit at all since about 2000. It’s not a good situation at all.

posted by flug at 10:42 AM on February 14, 2016

Shaving a girl’s hair is also a popular punishment in groups where “traditional” femininity is mandated.

posted by Pope Guilty at 10:42 AM on February 14, 2016

Because there’s obviously something about this guy’s brain that isn’t normal.

I sort of suspect most dangerous cults form around various kinds of shared mental illness. People with mental illnesses cluster together and create little identity reinforcing in-groups based on their shared mental disorders, and it just gets more and more out of hand as the disease process runs its course. A similar effect probably happens among more benign social groupings.

posted by saulgoodman at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2016

See also: “Patriots” movement.

posted by Windopaene at 1:49 PM on February 14, 2016

We are watching

Big Love at the moment. I grew up Catholic and now repudiate all religions but I still think those guys are wacky.

posted by turbid dahlia at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2016

I suspect that this is more-or-less how all religions begin: one person with a mental disorder and a knack for manipulating vulnerable people (cynically or not) manages to turn their delusions into a dogma and a community.

I think the notion of ascribing the origins of religious belief to mental illness is offensive both to the religious and to people who suffer from mental illness today.

It’s also a poor way of looking at history. These are highly complex systems that developed over hundreds of thousands of years. Many of the beliefs we assume to be fundamental to religions are modern interpretations that may go back less than 200 years. You can’t look at a modern cult and assume that it closely mirrors anything from the premodern world, let alone the origins of major religions.

posted by teponaztli at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2016

(The same goes for modern concepts of mental illness, as well.)

posted by teponaztli at 2:17 PM on February 14, 2016

I think the notion of ascribing the origins of religious belief to mental illness is offensive both to the religious and to people who suffer from mental illness today.

I don’t mean the religions themselves, necessarily, and definitely not all religious groups. Hell, cults aren’t always even about religion–look at all the self-help and self improvement cults that have come up here on the blue. I used the specific phrase “dangerous cults” for a reason. And I’ve suffered from diagnosed mental illness myself in the past and definitely don’t mean to offend anyone else in that boat.

posted by saulgoodman at 2:24 PM on February 14, 2016

the notion of ascribing the origins of religious belief to mental illness is offensive both to the religious and to people who suffer from mental illness today.

Not sure I follow you. Why?

It’s widely acknowledged that the delusions and behaviors associated with various disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar, some forms of epilepsy, etc.) are often religious in character. And we have no shortage of documented examples of modern would-be prophets who are uncontroversially diagnosed as mentally ill.

Some of those prophets succeed in attracting followers and establishing a cult (in the value-neutral sense). A few manage to attract thousands of followers, establish permanent communities, and consolidate significant political/social/economic/police power. Often, the only thing that prevents them from establishing stable and lasting influence is the intervention of strong modern governments. (We even have one modern example—Scientology—where did the government did not intervene effectively, and that belief system now seems poised to remain stable and influential for decades or centuries. It may seem like an odd and exceptional sort of religion to us, but imagine how strange Christianity would sound if you hadn’t grown up hearing about it.)

These examples of modern new religious movements sound very much like the early histories of certain ancient religions to me. Obviously, we can’t know for certain whether modern psychiatry would diagnose (for example) Moses or Muhammed or with any particular disorder.

But it certainly doesn’t seem out of the question that some of the founders of established world religions were mentally ill, just as some of the founders of today’s new religions are. Why would we assume that human psychology and sociology wouldn’t have manifest similar phenomena centuries ago? People are still people.

I mean, if not mental illness, what would compel a person to decide that they’re a prophet who has been specially chosen to hear the voice of an unseen all-powerful entity, and to bring that entity’s message to humankind? This is exactly what we do see in certain types of mental disorder.

(Obviously, not every NRM—inspired by mental illness or not—is as damaging and dangerous as the FLDS. And none of this is meant to disparage or stigmatize anyone with any mental illness, the vast majority of whom do not become megalomaniacal cult leaders.)

I’ve always found the DSM-IV’s glossary definition of “delusion” instructive:

A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgment, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgment is so extreme as to defy credibility.

It’s interesting that the editors felt it necessary to include this caveat—without it, large swaths of what we call “religion” could be fairly diagnosed as delusion. Certainly, a great number of religious people manage to compartmentalize their religious beliefs well enough to get along in society. But I’m not at all convinced that there’s anything more than politics to this distinction—that an absurd idea believed by one person is a delusion, whereas the same absurd idea believed by enough other people is somehow a fundamentally different species. The substance of the belief has not changed; only its social acceptability.

Or, as Sam Harris so pithily put it (not that I’m necessarily a fan of Harris in general):

The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency.

I’m not the first to suggest that some religious visions reported in scripture and history may actually have been some form of hallucination. I can’t prove it, of course—but given that we see the same phenomenon in humans today, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to suspect.

I’ll leave it at that.

posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:45 PM on February 14, 2016

The FLDS are indeed following in the footsteps of Joseph Smith and their lifestyle is closer to his than the current LDS Church which keeps changing its “unchanging” beliefs with time and pressure from current culture. Smith had wives of all ages including teens as young as 14, which was not common practice in the 19th century especially since he was mid 30s at the time and already had several wives. His many wives are documented on the church’s own genealogy pages. Polygamy and the western polygamous cults are a direct offshoot of the founding beliefs of the LDS church, much as they try to distance themselves from them. If Joseph Smith came back today he would be more at home in the polygamous cults than in the more mainstream LDS church.

posted by mermayd at 3:48 PM on February 14, 2016

“I think the best way to look at this is organized crime, not religion,” Jessop says.

this is key. I’m sure thinking hard about what it meant to be accessory to child rape had a lot to do Jessop’s “come to jesus” moment. Jeffs mistake was letting a goon like Jessop, who had only one wife, too close to the inner circle.

posted by ennui.bz at 3:48 PM on February 14, 2016

Their leader is in jail. For rape. How is this continuing? I thought those people up in Oregon were doing bad things, but guess what? They really were only camping.

I guess the David Koresh formula works longer than it used to, only now you get to sit in jail and work it.

At what point do we make this kinda thing illegal? At what point do we prosecute those that use religion for their own ends? At what point do we teach people that this is wrong?

posted by valkane at 3:53 PM on February 14, 2016

Jeffs mistake was letting a goon like Jessop, who had only one wife, too close to the inner circle.

I think there’s something in that, ennui.bz. It’s much harder for people to back out once they’re complicit. I know of some other cults whose initiation rites involved a sort of ritualised sacrilege (eating forbidden food, engaging in forbidden sex, murder, whatever). It’s not even confined to religious groups: criminal groups and prison gangs have required that recruits commit a murder on their behalf, and some boys’ school societies had a sort of ritualised homosexuality.

So why did Jeffs trust Jessop without initiating him? I suppose that this sort of trust is a two-edged sword: maybe Jeffs (correctly!) thought he couldn’t trust Jessop; maybe he tried to retain power by separating the clerical and secular arms of his church. What I find hard to contemplate is the possibility that Jeff’s crimes were common among the FLDS leadership. Jessop says he didn’t initially know Jeffs was raping Jessop’s cousin; what else does he not know, or pretend not to know?

posted by Joe in Australia at 4:07 PM on February 14, 2016

“I think the best way to look at this is organized crime, not religion,” Jessop says.

The FBI was/is looking for any way to take down the Jeffs , including business and tax fraud and RICO charges, same as Capone. They got lucky with Warren in that they were able to make actual rape charges stick . But brother Lyle is more slippery and is using the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling to avoid appearing in court for child labor and discrimination infractions.

posted by bluefly at 4:20 PM on February 14, 2016

Oyéah

: It looks like Rolling Stone published an

article about the Kingston Clan

back in 2011 — haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks pretty horrifying.

posted by Kat Allison at 5:32 PM on February 14, 2016

It’s widely acknowledged that the delusions and behaviors associated with various disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar, some forms of epilepsy, etc.) are often religious in character. And we have no shortage of documented examples of modern would-be prophets who are uncontroversially diagnosed as mentally ill.

I mean, if not mental illness, what would compel a person to decide that they’re a prophet who has been specially chosen to hear the voice of an unseen all-powerful entity, and to bring that entity’s message to humankind? This is exactly what we do see in certain types of mental disorder. OK, for one thing, by pointing to what appears to be mental illness in ancient people, you’re classifying them according to definitions that are very specific to the modern day. For another thing, your characterization of ancient religion is decidedly modern in substance. In both cases, you’re misapplying modern thought to ancient people. You’re overlooking the historical and social contexts for these movements and labeling them as “delusional” in nature in order to make a rhetorical point about religion in general.

You bring up the DSM definition of a delusion, but you overlook that cultural norms change over time, and that historical people may have nonetheless drawn distinctions between what was “normal” and what wasn’t – and that the articulations of religious belief may have indeed been completely in accord with prevailing logic and philosophy (you also appear to be vastly oversimplifying how these beliefs were articulated). You’re suggesting mental illness in religious leaders and casting doubt on them for failing to anticipate changes in philosophy that wouldn’t even appear until more than a thousand years after they died.

I’d love to expand on this more, I have to go (no joke, I have a pizza party to attend). I’ll say this: the suggestions you are making are offensive because they imply that religious people today are uncritically accepting of someone’s delusional ravings. That’s not an innocent suggestion, and it’s not free of its own loaded ideology.

Finally, your suggestions are offensive to today’s sufferers of mental illness because they implicitly associate the abuse and manipulation of someone like Warren Jeffs with people who are almost always the ones who suffer the most from their own illness.

posted by teponaztli at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2016

Colorado city (Short Creek) is known for the rare genetic disorder

fumarase deficiency

also called “Polygamist Down’s”. It causes severe mental deficiency. Of 33 cases known world wide, 20 are in Colorado City. This is attributed to generations of cousin marriage between the descendants of the two founders of Colorado City, Joseph Smith Jessop and John Y. Barlow.

posted by JackFlash at 7:30 PM on February 14, 2016

teponaztli, you’re putting an awful lot of words in my mouth, and making an awful lot of assumptions which I don’t think are supported by what I’ve actually written. But it’s a difficult subject to discuss, particularly via this medium, and it’s a bit of a derail besides. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree.

posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:01 PM on February 14, 2016

Under the Banner of Heaven

by Jon Krakauer is a must read on FLDS and Warren Jeffs. I understand he came upon the cult by accident when he was having a coffee in Nevada. Look for links on him discussing Warren Jeffs at Utube as will.

posted by Narrative_Historian at 1:43 AM on February 15, 2016

So why did Jeffs trust Jessop without initiating him? I suppose that this sort of trust is a two-edged sword: maybe Jeffs (correctly!) thought he couldn’t trust Jessop; maybe he tried to retain power by separating the clerical and secular arms of his church.

i’m sure it was a combination of thinking of Jessop as a big dumb dog and having a mental line dividing inside from outside ie. what was happening inside the house with the child bride was on a different plane from the guys standing around outside. except that you don’t last long as a private cop, like Jessop, without mapping out how any situation you are in is going to work out in court.

posted by ennui.bz at 6:35 AM on February 15, 2016

Is that just a weird pic or is there some thing about girls having close cut hair for some reason until they’re married? There are two with bouffant styles that I’m guessing are married. (“married”?) they all look way under 18.

The hair style is worn by unmarried as well as married women. It is just a style – though they don’t cut their hair, how it is worn is developed among the women.

The reason I wanted to point out that FLDS is just one of several polygamous groups — and that the growth of systematic criminal behaviour (under-age marriage, intimidation of others, violence) is largely a recent phenomenon even within the FLDS — is because I have been arguing with a friend of mine about polygamy. Most of what I know about the culture comes from my reading about the FLDS; most of what she knows is about the AUB (like the family on the Sister Wives show), and we found ourselves arguing at cross-purposes. The AUB, while still sexist and patriarchal, are not engaged in sanctioned child abuse through under-age marriage, and so she didn’t understand what I was talking about in terms of FLDS crimes. I realised that we cannot lump all polygamous sects – and I think that the debate over polygamy in general — which includes polygyny (one man, multiple wives) but also all the other forms of polyamory (any kind of marriage with more than 2 people) – is related to, but distinct from a debate about the FLDS.

We can condemn certain actions of the FLDS – underage marriage, child abuse and neglect, spousal abuse, financial malfeasance, abuse of the UEP trust, intimidation and assault of the sect’s enemies, etc – without even having a debate on the legality of polygamy. The FLDS always want to claim that it’s all about polygamy, so that they can try to use the “freedom of religion” defense — but it’s not about polygamy itself. It’s about the crimes that the sect are committing — and freedom of religion does not extend to child abuse or assault.

While I think that universal polygyny is an inherently unstable system (because it causes gender imbalance in the numbers of single people, and many humans are just wired to be monogamous), I believe that consenting adults should have the right to pursue polygyny (or any other form of polyamoury) if they wish to, as well as live a lifestyle that I would find abhorrent — after all, the gender inequality of the AUB is not so different from that of ultra-orthodox Jews or many other conservative religious sects. But that right does not extend itself to coercion of either children or adults into marriages – and that’s where the government should draw the line on stopping polygamous sects, rather than debating polygamy itself.

posted by jb at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2016

Also: as I have just recently read Carolyn Jessop’s book, which covers events in the Short Creek community from the early 80s through the early 2000s, as well as part of the followup – I am fascinated to hear what has happened since the 2008 raid. So much has changed in less than a decade — and (hearteningly) it seems that the opponents of Jeffs have gained some ground.

I don’t know if she is still involved, but as of about 2008-2009, Carolyn Jessop was on the board of the UEP (the trust that owns most of the property in Short Creek, discussed at length in the article), as an ex-FLDS member.

posted by jb at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2016

I would reccommend

Escape

, by Carolyn Jessop, with the note that, while I find it on the whole very credible, it is a very personal account and her perception of events is particular to her (she’s not that self-critical, for example).

But also: I’ve come to realise that due to the strict gender segregation of the FLDS, her description of the society is completely different from what a boy’s or a man’s experience would have been. For the most part, she lived in an almost entirely female society; her interactions with men and boys were largely limited to her father, her husband, and (to a much lesser extent) her sons & stepsons. She doesn’t even talk much about her brothers, except about how they helped her leave later. Her most important relationships were with women: her mother, her sister, her fellow-wives, her step-daughters. Whereas, when you read male accounts, you have the mirror opposite: they spent all of their time with other boys and men, and out on job sites, etc.

posted by jb at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2016

Okay, I’m getting into the second half of the article (regarding the United Order and the ‘seed-bearers’ and I take it back: things are getting much worse. I just had thought that the ex-FLDS moving back into town and opening businesses might be a good sign.

posted by jb at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2016

I’m the great-granddaughter of a polygamist. My great-grandfather ended up marrying a total of 9 times and that was more than a 100 years ago. No one in my family practices anything like it although a couple of aunts have divorced their husbands after they decided to add a 2nd wife. It’s pretty rare in the circles I’ve inhabited. Yet, that polygamy in the late 19th century managed to poison lives and interactions all the way into the 21st century. Even my father, who is a pretty devout Muslim thinks it’s disgusting.

I feel for these women and boys trapped in this misogynistic, tribal, and anti-education environment. I’m surprised the Feds are taking more steps to monitor some of these groups especially since it seems that they are also involved in the Sovereign Citizen movement, i.e., Cliven Bundy. They really do operate as their own insular societies, with the courts, police, etc. in their pockets.

posted by nikitabot at 11:47 AM on February 15, 2016

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, 10 others charged for benefits fraud, money laundering
posted by Catblack at 3:11 PM on February 23, 2016

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