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May 8th, 2008
11:22 AM ET

Rare access inside a FLDS household


Program note
: For the first time, a family of Warren Jeffs' devotees allows us into their home, and into their lives... watch Gary Tuchman's full report tonight on 360° 10p ET.

Gary Tuchman
360° Correspondent

We have been doing stories about Warren Jeffs FLDS church for about two years now. And now, for the first time, devoted followers of this mysterious sect have allowed us into their home to give us a look at their lives.

Chris and Lydia Wyler are not polygamists; although they are open to the possibility of that in their future. They are still young; 30 and 31 respectively, and have six children...ages 8 months to 12 years.

Frankly, they decided to allow us in their home after I made repeated requests over a period of months. Like every family that is part of the FLDS, they are told not to have contact with outsiders; particularly reporters. They still feel that way. But following the raid in Texas, in which hundreds of children were taken away from their parents, they had a desire to show how they have a normal life with a loving family.

I am a mere journalist, not a social worker, but indeed, their household seemed to be a very happy one with friendly well-adjusted children. The girls, dressed in their pioneer dresses and telltale long braided hair, and the boys in their conservative attire played on a trampoline, on scooters, climbed trees, and served my camera crew and me peach cobbler.

I played a game of one -on- one basketball with Chris, 17 years my junior, so I had a good workout. And then we talked. What they said about the raid, about their prophet Warren Jeffs, and about their isolated and mysterious life was captivating and fascinating. In the midst of our visit, somebody knocked on the door. It was a local policeman. All the police on the force are also members of the church.

They told the Wylers they just wanted to make sure everything was okay because neighbors saw a camera crew go in the house. Last year, I was almost arrested by one of those policemen who didn't like that I was interviewing people outside the post office. The Wylers told the officer everything was fine, and the interview continued. But the Wylers were nervous talking to me. Undoubtedly, many FLDS members now know they invited us in their house, and that could reflect poorly on this young family.

They were increasingly nervous during the rest of our stay. I pledged to them we would tell an honest story of our five hours with them. That of course, is what we aim to do on any story we tell. But when you're in a closed society like the FLDS, you are taught outsiders are often out to get you. I'm still not sure exactly what they think of me.


Filed under: FLDS update • Gary Tuchman • Polygamy
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Suzie

    I am Chris's younger sister and have chosen to leave that religion. I love Chris and Lydie and their babies and miss them. They are amazing ppl and awesome parents:) Often when I get a little frustrated with my own kiddos I remember the things I was taught as a child and from watching Lydia with her little ones. The parents from that community are taught to love their children and that family is everything. and the ppl that leave and claim that they are taught to abuse and treat the women less are going against what the FLDS church was about. I grew up there and I left. it is a matter of personal choice I am not saying that it is easy, it is a big decision but one that anyone can make. I have been watching the news on the texas raid and I am OUTRAGED that anyone in the US would be treated this way!!! Those poor innocent children and Mothers! No one should be abused and I will be the first to stand up and say it can't be allowed but that is a huge community and all the ppl can't be grouped together and labeled as abuser just because of their religion.

    June 3, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Linda

    The Texas Supreme Court has spoken and has ordered the YFZ Ranch children to be returned to their families. However, there needs to be some serious investigative work done to ensure that the public interest is served here. If these families are misusing the welfare system, using their clout to subvert the system and violating the law in other ways, that definitely needs to be dealt with.

    May 30, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  3. bob

    The government conducted an illegal raid. They are illegally taking children away from parents that have not been arrested or even accused of breaking the law. This community is a far better environment than most of the USA. There were no sexually trnasmitted diseases at the compound. USA average is one in four teeage girls has a std. The Mennonites and Amish are next ehhhh? Let's take the kids away from drug dealing parents first.........

    May 20, 2008 at 9:27 pm |
  4. Val

    I've been reading the comments of so many hundreds around the world, myself being born within the FLDS faith, and now I wish to caution all, great and small, from the ancient Native American prayer "Oh GREAT SPIRIT, GRANT THAT I MAY NOT JUDGE MY BROTHER UNTIL I HAVE WALKED A MILE IN HIS MOCCASINS". Also, "KNOW YE NOT, AND THIS BE TRUE, THAT GOD WILL JUDGE THE JUDGES TOO?!

    May 13, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  5. Apple in Tampa

    I think this church's basis sounds like something a group of men thought up so they could have numerous partners or as they like to call them wives and convince everyone that its God's will. What they don't seem to understand that in the Bible there were occasions when some would have more than one wife but those people were outside the will of God. When God created Adam and Eve he didn't create Adam, Eve1, Eve2, Eve 3 so Adam would have spares.

    May 12, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  6. Sue

    If you want to know more about this cult read Escape. It is fasinating. I have a friend who was raised in this very cult until she was ten. (Her grandfather was one of their "prophets") Her mother then managed to run away from it. My friend still has contact with some of her relatives in the cult. I asked her about the book and she said "You've got to realize there are some good loving families in there. BUT if the father chooses to be abusive no one is going to stop him. There are no repercussions for abusive behavior." It is a very patriarchal society– whatever the father says goes. And as far as genetic problems, oh yeah. They have an increasing number of children with some serious genetic problems rarely seen outside of the community. And lastly my friend pointed out that previous "prophets" weren't as crazy/wierd as Warren Jeffs. She claimed that she's hearing from her relatives that Warren Jeffs is so far off in the deep end that everyone's life is being effected. Read Escaped and this will all make much more sense to you.

    May 12, 2008 at 9:11 am |
  7. Biffie

    "Sherrie" Where does the money come from to support your family? Are you a bank robber or something? I can't imagine a woman as stupid as you being able to hold down a job. I know Mr. Wyler and he is a working man. He pays his bills and supports his family by his honest efforts. How about you? You people hear something on the news or read something and swallow it hook line and sinker without any regard for the truth. I also know Carolyn Blackmore quite well too and she has such a good memory she can remember things that didn't even happen.

    May 10, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  8. Mauka

    if the family knew in advance CNN was coming they had all the time to setup the "stage"...nice try. I didn't see no toys in the compound in Texas and OMG here the kids had a trampoline and a basketball court ...heck she had make up on!

    Nice try and great FLDS actors!

    May 10, 2008 at 9:53 am |
  9. Dianne

    The family visited by Gary seems like a perfectly normal one; however, the footage shown of the Texas compound did not show any 'toys' at all that I can remember. This family had numerous toys for their children and could not imagine anyone mistreating either the children or wives. But, this family is living in an individual home – not a dormitory like the Texas compound. I agree that we should not lump them all together; but, the Texas group is nothing like the family highlighted in this latest report. I also seem to remember reports about the children in the Texas group not being accustomed to playing in general; and, that it took several days before they finally started to laugh and participate in fun activities. So, it seems to me that Mr. Wyler is basing his statements about abuse on his own personal experience and therefore, lumping the Texas people into his perception. He, too, must realize that he cannot judge the Texas activities upon his own experience. Perhaps the actions in Texas have not been up to the usual standards for child protective services; but, by the same token, this is a very unusual situation. The people who condemn the state for their actions have obviously never been involved with child abuse issues. There are all kinds of abuse both mental and physical. Perhaps, before you start throwing stones, you should make certain your windows are break proof.

    May 10, 2008 at 3:33 am |
  10. Lois

    I just watched your show this evening re the FLDS family. How can you say it is a typical family when they don't practice poligamy? The typical family DOES practice poligamy. Either you are easily misled or you believe WE can be easily misled into believing this "hot story" is a real coup for CNN! What a joke! If everything is so wonderful in that community, why is Warren Jeffs in jail? Where on earth are you coming from?

    May 10, 2008 at 12:06 am |
  11. Connie

    All of this is so awefull not only are children subjected to the lifestyle but the women are abused. Having children before or by the age of 16 is hard on the child's body that is carring the babys. The women having babys at home do they have access to hospitals or emerengcy help if a birth goes wrong. So many questions and so much we will never know about this sect. I just pray that God will provide care and mental as well as physical to all the children and women.

    May 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  12. debbe

    What has shocked me is the lack of creative problem-solving in handling the children in the Texas raid.

    Why weren't the men on the compound removed, the children left in their homes with their mothers and siblings with a few legal guardians to watch over them, until the government officials could figure out what to do?

    Nooooooooo...instead we choose shatter the lives of the innocents further by separating them from their mothers and siblings -- treating them like crimminals - herding them like cattle - breaking the mother's hearts, tearing their babies from their arms -- while the grown men perpetrators are left to live their lives in comparative peace.

    Amazing...may God forgive this example of human cruelty and child abuse on a grand scale.

    May 9, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  13. Mike in NYC

    Karen from Philly wrote:

    "I just don’t understand how we americans are criticizing other countries when we are so backwards. It’s like we are a third world country. "

    It's not Jeffs and company that are making the U.S. "third world."

    Visit NYC and see what I mean. We're plenty "third world" without the FLDS.

    May 9, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  14. KarenD

    "Beginning a family at 18 and having six children in twelve years is- beyond excessive and abusive- at least to Lydia."

    HUH?

    May 9, 2008 at 11:16 am |
  15. kbp

    I had to laugh at how typical the first comment (Cindy's) was.

    "...one of them"

    As in us versus "them".

    May 9, 2008 at 1:57 am |
  16. Nancy Jacobs

    How can Utah and Arizona authorities just turn a blind eye to child abuse? I find it sickening and the only explanantion can be that the large Morman population is sympathetic to this group whether they practice polygamy or not. It is sick.

    And to the person who said with Texas, it was not about protecting the children?? Of course it is!! What would be any other reason? To interfere in their "religion." Come on! What is going on there is sick, these are not "normal, sweet families." What is going on is that there are many pedophiles and abusers using women and children as human shields so that they can continue their abuse.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  17. karen from philly

    I just don't understand how we americans are criticizing other countries when we are so backwards. It's like we are a third world country. This is so sad.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  18. Teresa

    While I am touched that this family would allow Gary in, ( which speaks alot of Gary's character and how he is trusted ) this particular family doesn't seem the usual run of the mill FLDS family. They say there is only one hubby and one wife... for now. I have a lot of questions, but I look forward to the show.

    This is a very interesting story and another view into a world we know nothing about.

    May 8, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  19. Jolene

    Gary:
    Give yourself some credit for not only getting this family to open their doors to you but for giving us a peak at what life is like living within the FLDS environment. I find it interesting that they do not consider themselves polygamists but they live under the FLDS rules. I hope you keep in touch with them after your report airs just to see if they are feeling any repercussions for talking to the media. Can't wait to see your report.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    May 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    Gary

    I am glad your perseverance paid off and that you finally got to talk to an FLDS family and see how they live. Any glimpse into the FLDS community is one step more in understanding the group. I'm looking forward to seeing the report on this – I've no doubt it will be interesting to say the least.

    I do have to correct one thing you said – you described yourself as a "mere reporter". Gary, you are a great reporter. Don't sell yourself short!!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 8, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  21. Sherri

    I have to wonder- where does the money to care for the Wylers' six children come from? The women are not permitted to be educated, nor work out in the community at large. Have the children had 'well child' checkup?" Beginning a family at 18 and having six children in twelve years is- beyond excessive and abusive- at least to Lydia. I feel for them- taking a risk at allowing a crew inside. What is the state of Texas doing about these police officers that appear to not uphold the laws of Texas but follow the mandates of Warren Jeffs instead? If indeed, this family lives on taxpayer monies- from those of us not members of the FLDS- then I think they should be prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud the state. They appear to wish to remain secluded and reclusive- but seem to have no problem with manipulating and abusing the systems they decry- leaving us to infer they pick and choose what constitutes moral and ethical behavior. Kudos to you Gary- for all your perserverence and hard work at giving us a view into this interesting, but very dangerous sect.

    May 8, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  22. Jo Ann

    Gary,

    Thanks for your interesting, yet disturbing blog today. I am not surprised that you have been able to find a new angle to approach this story from, you always do. Unfortunately, no matter how rosy a picture you tried to paint, the whole situation still sounds a little 1984ish to me.

    I think it is frightening that although the Wylers are not yet polygamists, they are being watched and evaluated by the neighbors and the police. Did you ask them why they wanted to be polygamists? Why would someone want to live in a closed society and subject themselves and their children to such constant scrutiny?

    I doubt that your report will change my feelings about this “religion,” I still see it as something created by men just looking for an excuse to have a “harem.”

    Unfortunately, I think they probably look at you as the enemy.

    I look forward to your report tonight!

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    May 8, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  23. Mike in NYC

    "But when you’re in a closed society like the FLDS, you are taught outsiders are often out to get you."

    And recent events have proven otherwise?

    Renee wrote:

    "Are STD’s, HIV, HEP and HPV active in the FLDS community? What about genetic diseases?"

    If they had these, we'd surely have heard about it by now.

    Judy Stage, what does Saint Carolyn have to say about this?

    BTW, whatever happened to the concerned Colorado caller, Rozita Swinton, a/k/a “Sarah”?

    This case was not about “helping the children.” You can bank on that.

    May 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
  24. Janna

    I hope the peach cobbler was good enough to make up for all the previous doors in your face 🙂 Thanks for continuing to cover this facinating lifestyle. I'm looking forward to your story tonight.

    May 8, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  25. R Dasani, Phoenix AZ

    I would love to see a piece comparing polygamy in the US and in other countries.

    it's interesting to see that such a situation would arise in the US, where we we hold strongly to the ideals of equality and freedom. Young boys are driven away and young girls are brainwashed and abused with the willing consent of their parents

    If we saw this happing anywhere else in the world on such a scale we would deem any such country as ignorant and uncivlised, and yet here it is happening here and our government is turing a blind eye – shocking

    May 8, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  26. sara. .minneapolis

    Glad to hear some FLDS families allow their children toys. The YFZ ranch's strict policies looked/sounded so creepy.

    Are you guys going to cover that cult situation in New Mexico? All I know is that the leader was arrested for molesting minors.

    May 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  27. Renee

    Are STD's, HIV, HEP and HPV active in the FLDS community? What about genetic diseases?

    Just wondering since the men seem to be SO sexually active well into their latter years, if they ever go outside the community and bring the sexually transmitted diseases in so to speak?

    Also, do the men get health care and the women none? The birth records lead me to believe the children are all born at home.

    May 8, 2008 at 2:33 pm |
  28. Michelle

    Sounds like 360 will not disappoint tonight. Team 360 your
    FLDS coverage with Gary and David from the scenes have
    been awesome. Will you all also be covering the situation in
    Beirut ? I just turned on the tv and saw the scene with Cal
    Perry. Also kudos for your coverage out of Burma, Dan Rivers reports have been heartbreaking and informative . I remember
    a while back when Anderson was in Lebanon, why is the
    fighting back full scale ?

    May 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  29. Meg

    I wish more FLDS families would open their homes so America can see that not all of the FLDS families are abusive and harmful – some are loving normal families with deep roots in their religious beliefs. I have a huge problem with their practice of marrying off young girls to much older men and relatives, but I also think that Texas CPS way overstepped in removing all of the children from the mothers. I can understand the need to have a thorough investigation, but turning over 450 children's lives upside down based on a few phone calls that were faked is a sorry position for them to be sitting in.

    May 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  30. Carol

    Thank you for presenting another side of the coin, so to say, about this group of people.

    I have found the over-all coverage of this story very poor. I usually flip the channel as soon as it comes on because it is nothing but rumors and speculation. This whole thing is still unfolding – we don't know yet what is really happening.

    I have also found it frightening to see how quickly people will condemn others and make assumptions about an entire group of people based on a few, yet unproven, stories.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  31. Judy Stage Brooklyn MI

    Hello Gary, I spent two days reading "Escape", by Carolyn Jessop and I am stunned. My original exposure to this story was on AC/360, but the full story was not out. Carolyn's book is fascinating and I could not put it down. As a mother of six and grandmother of ten I do not know how she survived her so called marriage with any resemblance of mental stability.
    She is now doing God's work because of her courage to blow the whistle on the FLDS cult.
    My first thought when the state of Texas removed all of the children was one of sadness for they were leaving the only family and life that they knew, but I have changed my mind and believe they are much better off. Carolyn's book certainly opened my eyes.
    I am hardly a proponent of the foster care system but it has to be better than the cult that they were born into. These children would grow up as slaves to men invaded by evil.
    It is still difficult for me to believe that in the 21st century oppression and abuse of women and children still exists in this country. We are critical of other countries human rights abuse but ignore the "plank in our own eyes". I am pleased with you and CNN for shining the light of truth on this terrible situation. Please keep the justice system honest and report over and over again decisions made by them.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  32. Charlotte D

    So this young couple got married at 18 or 19 and have six kids so far and are open to polygamy in their future. The kids seem well adjusted but are in this very reclusive environment which does not include mingling with kids outside of the cult or going to public school probably? How well adjusted would they be if went to the mall or the movies or the public library? Yikes, those poor kids growing up in that creepy environment. H/e I bet the peach cobbler was de-lish.

    Charlotte D, Stockton CA

    May 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  33. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Interesting. I just don't think I'd ever be able to stomach sharing my husband with another wife. I've already been forced to share an almost fiance with another woman when he became unfaithful, and that's where our relationship ended for good. I do find the concept of polygamy to honor God ingriguing in a curious sort of way. It's quite out of the norms for me. I'm sure this interview will be educational.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:39 am |
  34. Cindy

    Gary,
    OK...they say they are not polygamist yet they are open to adding more wives in the future and they live in the community so what does that make them? If you practice their beliefs and live with them then that makes you one of them. Although from what you say they do seem to be a normal family but looks can be deceiving.

    I know you always do a fair and balanced story so they have nothing to worry about there. Can't wait to see your report tonight.

    Take care...
    Cindy

    May 8, 2008 at 11:29 am |

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