Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A New me, anyway...

I started reading "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith." It's an investigative look at a 1984 double murder committed by two brothers who believed they were ordered to kill by God...they grew up in a Mormon home, and somehow as Jon Krakauer will tell the story, there is a connection to the FLDS, the Fundamentalist Mormons who were raided in Texas a few weeks ago.

We've had this book in our home for about a year now. I picked it up at a used book sale, and Scott read/skimmed most of it. I decided to read it now because of the news tories about these people in Texas and because Oprah had a show about them recently. I remembered we had this book, so found it and started it the other night. It is really disturbing, how sick and twisted the thinking is in the FLDS. They have "compounds" or whole towns, basically, in Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Canada.

This business of plural marriages--young, young girls being "married" to men twice, or three times their age--it's commonplace for them. It's just the way they live, the life they've been born into. I woke up in the middle of the night with some tummy trouble, and I first thought through everything I had eaten during the day, and then thought of the book I was reading right before bed and thought maybe the stories of these people had literally made me sick to my stomach.

So, I'm early into the book, but here's a couple of things that made me go Wow! out loud as I was reading:

Polygamy is illegal in both Utah and Arizona. To avoid prosecution, typically men in Colorado City [one of the towns they pretty much own in AZ] will legally marry only the first of their wives; subsequent wives, although 'spiritually married' to their husband by Uncle Rulon [the leader...father of Warren Jeffs], thus remain single mothers in the eyes of the state. This has the added benefit of allowing the enormous families in town to qualify for welfare and other forms of public assistance. Despite the fact that Uncle Rulon and his followers regard the governments of Utah, Arizona, and the United States as Satanic forces out to destroy [them], their polygamous community receives more than $6 million a year in public funds....33% of the town's residents receive food stamps--compared to the state average of 4.7%. Currently the residents of Colorado City receive 8 dollars in government services for every dollar they pay in taxes; by comparison, residents in the rest of Mohave County, AZ, receive just over a dollar in services per tax dollar paid....Fundamentalists call defrauding the government 'bleeding the beast' and regard it as a virtuous act.


For all their fecundity, Mormon Fundamentalists are strangely squeamish about sex. Boys and girls are forbidden to date, or even flirt, before marriage. Sex education consists of teaching children that the human body is a shameful vessel that should be veiled from the eyes of others at all times....In spite of--or more likely because of--the atmosphere of repression in Bountiful [the town in Canada], incest and other disturbing behaviors are rampant, although the abuse goes conspicuously unacknowledged....because the mayor, the police, and the judge in Colorado City are themselves polygamists who are absolutely obedient to the prophet, there is 'nowhere' for victims of abuse to turn.

I can't believe that what I'm reading about is something that is happening right now, today, in our country. I'm not sure what to do about it. Religious freedom is one thing, but these folks are involved in criminal activity.

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