April 15th, 2008
01:24 PM ET

At the green gate, and then a glimpse of the polygamist's life

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/15/art.insidepolygamy.jpg caption="CNN gets rare access inside the FLDS compound ."]

Katherine Wojtecki
CNN Producer
Every day for the last week and a half that I have been here in remote Texas, I've approached anyone and everyone who came to the beaten-up green farm gate that is the sole entrance to the compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.


Then, out of nowhere, buses pulled up carrying what appeared to be women from the compound, and I thought this could be our chance, our one chance to persuade them to let us inside this mysterious place that we all knew so little about.

The women started to file off the buses and started talking with us, telling their side of the story, and the impact on them and their children of the raid in which the state removed 416 children after allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

As the women finished talking with us, and started climbing into their SUV's to head up the long road to the compound, I knew that was my chance. I approached the men at the gate and asked if our cameras and satellite truck could go in for the first-ever look with television cameras.

I tried my best convincing, and they said yes. I almost didn't believe it. This group had usually dodged reporters, and refused to say anything at all to outsiders.

As soon as they unlocked that green gate every member of the media started driving up, and asking to be let in, too. And so the men decided if they let us in, they were going to have to let everyone else in.

I hopped in the car as fast as I could with my photographer, and we drove down a long gravel road that seemed to last forever. It led eventually to... another green gate. There, we waited. And waited. Until finally the group's members decided to let in our cars, in single file.

On that gravel compound, we saw houses. Brown houses, scattered all over, so many it looked as if they could hold more people than I imagine.

Church members led us to one house, where the women of the compound, wearing pioneer dresses and their never-cut hair gathered up in distinctive honey-combed buns, were waiting to talk with us.

Some spoke in fear, some were shy, most were more than willing to tell us what it's like to live there, and what they have experienced these past couple weeks.

It was a rare glimpse inside the lives of a closed society.



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Filed under: Polygamy
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. marie

    teenagers get pregnant all the time. ever been to the south side of chicago??? how many 16 year olds have 4 kids....LOTS! and they are all from different "baby daddies"
    In our society little teenagers get pregnant all the time, but they kill their babies through abortion! Like modern day sex crazed young America is a shining example of purity and perfection for these people to shape their lives to.
    Mary gave birth to Jesus at age 14. Mothers have been having babies in their teen years for thousands of years. Its just our American culture that thinks unless you have a huge house and a car and are 30, you should not have children.
    Claims that this is wrong baised on that reasoning is hogwash.
    Oh yeah, "sarah" is not coming foreward because she is "scared"?
    whatever...I thought the state said that the children feel more secure without their elders around.....get real, there is no Sarah....ever hear of a prank phone call??
    If there is abuse, then take the children....but prove it first, and give these poor mamas their babies back, or at least let them see them.
    I think we are being totally prejiduced to these people because they are weird and dont cut their hair and dress in dresses and live differently than we do.

    April 19, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  2. Woody

    Freedom of religion doesn't mean allowing any nut to call himself a "prophet" and abuse people in the name of God. This is a fenced compound in the middle of nowhere – the women and children entrapped in it never get to leave or interact with the outside world.

    I'm all for religious freedom, but this is nothing more than a cult with a propagation factory to grow its membership.

    April 18, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  3. Kelly

    If anyone questions whether these children should be taken away, just read Carolyn Jessop's book ESCAPE. I have really followed any and all coverage on the FLDS since reading that book. The true account of her life and the lives of her children is horrifying. And to the lady who wrote the blog questioning whether or not Carolyn's story is true, do some research! There are quite a few women who have escaped the FLDS who give the same type of accounts of there lives. I feel terribly sorry for all of the children, because that is the only life they have ever known. However, if we can get these children into mainstream America, they can turn their lives around. I understand that the mother's miss their children, but they are endangering them by living this lifestyle. How many of us would allow our children to marry an old man and how many of us would want to have our teenagers pregnant at young ages? Teenage pregnancy can cause birth defects and problems to the mother's health as well as growth and development. I am all about freedom of religion, as long as the religion is law abiding and is not radical and endangering anyone. This one is obviously not law abiding considering bigamy is a crime and so is statuatory rape and incest!

    April 17, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  4. Pam

    Everyone seems to think that members of the FLDS have rights because of their religion – What religion? This is a cult full of dirty old men who like to have sex with little girls. What next – Are people going to be able to commit rape, robberies, murder and disguise it as being for religious purposes?
    I don't understand what's wrong with people today? The men and women of the FLDS should all have to pay for what they are doing to these children. If my husband slept with a child and I knew he did it and did nothing to save that child then I would be just as much to blame as he was. If we allow the "God made me do it" defense to work then this country is in for a rude awakening.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  5. biene@shaw.ca

    It is very sad to see how the womwn and children are living.It looks like a convent or even a jail.there are no pictures on the walls.No paintings that the children painted or drew.No plants ,no flowers.no animals as in pets.
    How do they even know who their Mother is ,they are all called mother.Do those women even have any kind of identication.Don't the children have to be registererd in the staate of Texas and any other.
    Where are the 60 and 70 year old women.
    It looks to me that if people there were to disapear nobody would know what happend.
    This so called religion must be stopped and forbidden.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  6. tamka

    Yes, I am very tired, I will say this regardless of religion, these women sit by and allowed their daughters to be raped and beaten by men twice or three times their age do we not see a problem with this.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:35 pm |
  7. Jennifer

    Coming from 24 yrs in the regular LDS church and then accepting the true belief of Christ later...people don't understand the strength of the mind and how people cling to the comfort of what they know. If I still struggle with some prior beliefs, now knowing the truth, and I was only semi-isolated through training and upbringing – I can't imagine how total isolation would affect someone. People who say "freedom of religion" aren't thinking of the fact that being raised without choices to explore your freedom is no freedom at all. We are talking about three generations – over 100 yrs – of only knowing what someone else has decided is truth.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  8. Cookie South Dakota

    The person at the gate didn't make that decision, it had aleady been made before you asked. These men do nothing without the head guy, Merrill Jessop giving his ok. This looked like it was very well controled by the FLDS. They didn't answer all of your questions, and were very selective in their answers. sorry I feel it was a dog and pony show that the FLDS decided to do. Has anyone noticed the woman were crying but no tears, no red eyes. Ladies standing on the balcony were smiling and seemed to be enjoying all the attention. I am sorry but if someone had taken my children and I had just gone thru a week from home and then not even allowed to tell my children goodbye I would have cried the whole way home and had real tears and red eyes. I probably wouldn't want to speak to the media about it and just entered my home and cry some more. This was a complete setup by the FLDS and news media took it hook line and sinker.

    April 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Edwin

    I have read all that was said by so many people. I feel for the children, they must be so confused. I also feel for the families that are torn apart. But I also feel for the state. A difficult decision they had to take. Someone somewhere will have to take responsibility for what has happened and in the end a lot of dear children and their parents can get hurt. Some people in the blog says what of one child that was not abused, yet the other side of the coin is also, what of one that are abused. So a tricky and sad story no matter how you look at it. I hope of us come out the better person once this episode is finished.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:19 am |
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