Stick with me here, I know it's an off the wall topic, but POLYGAMY aka PLURAL marriage. I know, I know...where did I come up with that? Up until about 7.5 years ago I never gave polygamy a thought. Then I moved to where I live now, 20 miles past the middle of nowhere and have been introduced to it because the town that is directly west of where I live is the home of one of the largest polygamy sects, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), in the US. The community actually straddles the state border and consists of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. Just so you know, everything I am going to write about is from my own observations, or from what I have heard around here.
In order to get to the next major city for shopping and entertainment we have to drive a highway that runs through the two towns. Other than driving through numerous times I have only had a handful of exchanges in either town. My first was to visit their dairy store with a coworker of mine. It was brief, but the lady at the cash register was very cold and spoke very little to us, no eye contact. The next experience was walking around their greenhouse nursery. The adults never approached us to offer help and only interacted at check out time, but there were a couple little kids there and they kept peeking around the corner watching us while we looked at the plants. More recently they have opened a restaurant called The Merry Wives Cafe in Hildale and I have been there to eat a few times.
The family that owns and operates the Merry Wives is actually from a break off sect called The Work of Jesus Christ that is just south of Colorado City in a community called Centennial Park. These fundamentalists are more modern and progressive and don't practice the negative aspects of the FLDS. They are the group that often goes on news TV shows, such as Primetime, to defend plural marriage. If you are ever passing through the area I recommend you stop in and have a sandwich, it will be an experience you will not soon forget. They are very nice and welcoming of outsiders.
Outside of their community the FLDS members can be seen around the big city that we go to for major shopping. They are easy to identify as they wear prairie dress and the women all do their hair with a swoop in the front and braid in the back. Before I moved here I loved to braid my hair if I was going to be working outside, but now I stick with pony tails to make sure there is no confusion.
So if you haven't heard about the FLDS and some of the controversies surrounding them, they not only practice plural marriage, but they often arrange marriages for young girls as soon as they hit puberty. That is why their current leader, who they consider to be their prophet, Warren Jeffs is in prison. Women are forced into marriages that are arranged by the prophet and have no say in any matters, they tell them to "keep sweet." They also will often outcast the young boys of their community. These "lost boys" have very little education and training so they have a hard time acclimating into the outside world. I have heard that the families in the FLDS milk the welfare system and call it "bleeding the beast." And if that wasn't enough to raise your eyebrows, one last controversy:
The Colorado City/Hildale area has the world's highest incidence of fumarase deficiency, an extremely rare genetic condition which causes severe mental retardation. Geneticists attribute this to the prevalence of cousin marriage between descendants of two of the town's founders, Joseph Smith Jessop and John Yates Barlow. At least half of the double community's inhabitants are descended from one or both men.
It is also my understanding that not only does it cause mental retardation, but also severe physical deformities, but I have never seen anyone there who has this deficiency and have heard that they hide the children and only take them out for medical care, which of course they take advantage of public health care sources.
When it comes to the FLDS the least thing that bugs me is the polygamy, I figure to each there own and if they are all willing to take on plural marriage, then who am I to stop them. In fact I think it would help things out a lot if polygamy were legalized and law enforcement could hold these people accountable for the child abuse and welfare fraud that occurs now and not give them the easy argument that the government is trying to interfere with their religious beliefs.
So the reason I am posting this late is because I went to the big city today and was going to snap some photos if/when I came across any polygamists. Well I did see several at Walmart, but I chickened out on snapping a picture.