April 15th, 2008
05:24 PM ET

Ex-Polygamist: I Can't Believe THIS is Happening in America

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/15/art.polygamy.jpg caption="Law enforcement vehicles seen around the main temple on the grounds of the Yearning For Zion Ranch, home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Eldorado, Texas"]

Kristyn Decker
Former polygamist

For 50 years I lived in a polygamist group that my father led in Salt Lake City, called the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB). With more than 7500 members, it's the second-largest polygamist sect, after the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, from which it broke off half a century ago.

Like many Bible believers, we were taught to live by God's commandments so we could have our families in Heaven - in the hereafter. We were taught we'd never get into heaven on the coattails of our leaders.

But for more than 50 years, just like kamikaze pilots, the FLDS fundamentalists have been taught very differently - instructed to follow their Prophet's commands "no matter what he tells you to do; for the Lord will not allow your prophet to deceive you."

It's always been this way - but when Warren Jeffs assumed leadership, things fell apart worse than ever before. Among his long list of unprecedented new rules, he declared children should not be educated outside of their homes and closed city schools.

Women were to stop wearing brightly colored or patterned clothing, and told that pastels reflect the submissive behavior they must always show. He expelled many adult men and hundreds of teenage boys, some as young as 13, who could be considered a threat to his control.

Warren Jeffs scattered and mixed up hundreds of women and children - taking more than 20 of the younger girls for himself. He advised his followers they were not to talk to any family members who had ever left the compound.

Not long after that, they were not to speak or listen to any "gentile," the word they use for non-FLDS members, other than for business purposes. In 2000 he demanded that anyone who wanted to be part of the "rapture," as he called the coming end of the earth, must sell their homes and move to Colorado City. The list of harsh new rules goes on and on.

Last night on the FLDS compound, I heard young childlike girls claim, "We have a choice. Yes, this is my choice. I'm happy here. This is where I want to be." These women and children in the FLDS have no authentic choice or civil rights - other than blind, innocent obedience. Like the devout believers of Jimmy Jones' 1978 and David Koresh's 1993 mass suicides, they too, under this constant pattern may take cyanide after they feed it to their children.

I've watched this pattern in the FLDS throughout my whole life.

"For Jesus" sake," my nephew told me yesterday, "God is testing us to see if we'll endure to the end - no matter what we are required to do."

Editor's note: Kristyn Decker says she is at the FLDS ranch in Texas looking for her sister, who married an FLDS member. She left the AUB six years ago.

Filed under: Polygamy
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. ra smith

    it was reported many childen did not have birth certificates. does the sect maintain birth and death records? what do they do with dead children? any other members who die? it's funny when pressed that some did manage to produce birth certificates. why hasn't anyone been charged with obstructing an invesigation when they fail to answer questions? what about the obvious : isnt polygamy against the law and having children in that environment is not safe and might corrupt them. if certian men are proved by dna to be fathers of these children, i hope the attorney general will go after them to repay welfare paid to the mothers.

    i think Texas needs to run them out of the state and they can go back on welfare where ever they came from...

    May 24, 2008 at 4:33 am |
  2. Marianne B

    What is all this talk about $$$$?

    Let's take care of the children first, make them physically and psychologically whole again. No matter the cost. The life-long consequences of not addressing these needs are too horrifying to comtemplate.

    THEN we can decide how to recoup possible fraud losses.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:14 pm |
  3. Erika

    These women are so brainwashed. They remind me of automotons. They think , dress, talk, and look alike. I feel like I'm watching a cross between "Little House On the Prairie" and "The Stepford Wives". I'm really interested in what the men have to say. Where are they anyway? They are letting the women do their dirty work. Cowards!

    April 16, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  4. sam

    can you post the video of the interview with the woman from the FLDS that was talking about the comparison to Jews in WWII, or send me the link.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:43 pm |
  5. Kathy

    I see the FLDS women crying and begging for their children to be returned but where are the FATHERS? Hiding behind the women's skirts? They are using the women as a Public Relations tool to gain sympathy from the American public and put pressure on the courts. The American tax payer has already been too generous with these "dead beat dads" it time to make them resposible. The ranch the FLDS owns in Texas is huge. Do they pay any property taxes?
    These men should be hauled in and their DNA taken so that matches can be made between their DNA and that of the children. No way should the children be returned to that way of live, good mothers would give up that live style, leave and be with their children. It's time the Federal Government investigated the activities of the FLDS and put a stop to polygmay. It is still against the law? It is just another form of slavery.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:49 am |
  6. Debra from Fl.

    If we can do this to them , why can't we do it to

    April 16, 2008 at 10:22 am |
  7. Alvin

    Geez dudes. How many days has this story been on your program??? It takes up like half the time of every program for the past week or so.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:19 am |
  8. nina

    i am not seeing anyone commenting on Warren Jeff's connecion with this FLDS compound..he is their spritual advisor and is currently in jail , having been found guilty of child abuse. The FLDS members have not excuminicated jeffs for this horrible crime , and still hold him in high reguards..this might be something for all of you to consider...he is not repentant of this crime..
    ...the raid on the texas compound is not some way out imagined threat...but one that has occured( warren jeffs spiritual leader and director) and possibly( probably) continuing to happen to those children...
    whatever may typically occured in another county, where abuses of this kind are permitted, it carries no weight here..these are american laws and state laws that are being broken. if the mothers are not protecting the child from abuse then no matter how much she loves it ..she is a party to that abuse.

    April 16, 2008 at 9:22 am |
  9. smith

    The cycle of violence must be stopped. Eventhough the sect responded to the raid with "singing and prayer", their leaders use intimidation and emotional violence to control the masses.
    The raping of the young children does NOT begin at the temple in the "bed", but rather at a much younger age. I am not talking about physical rape, but a mental one.
    The children are isolated from society and "programmed" to think a certain way. This programming is a violent act because it strips an individual of her free will. So Sad. I fear taking the girls away from the compound at this time might be too late. The damage from the "mind rape" might be irreversable.
    In the comming weeks and months, the FLDS will use their lawyers to paint themselves as the victims of a cold government system. They are masters at deception and manipulation. They will attempt to sway public opinion by displaying themselves as peacefull people being "persecuted". This campaign will also help them reinforce their longstanding belief that anyone outside the sect is evil and has ill intent.
    Somehow, former members of the sect need to come out and speak out against the cycle of violence in the sect. The "killing" of the human mind is one of the most violent acts we as humans can perform.

    April 16, 2008 at 8:19 am |
  10. George Powers

    I noticed all the women at today's press event, although wiping their faces many times were in fact not shedding any tears. The ability to cry is the sign of a healthy mind and body, the lack of tears concerns me.

    April 16, 2008 at 5:15 am |
  11. Lisa

    Dear CPS and the State of Texas. May God bless and guide you in the pursuit to protect the children. This child rescue is necessary. The children need safety and shielding from any and all forms of abuse. This crisis will be ongoing, long lasting and very costly. The amount of time and manpower needed to service these families will be great. Thank you for doing your mandated job to protect and serve the children of this country. Please continue to care and defend the children of this state. Good luck with your investigations I know you will do your best job.

    To the children may we leave you safer, stronger and help to heal you. May we also save you from a cycle of abuse.

    America April is child abuse awareness month.

    April 16, 2008 at 3:49 am |
  12. andre brown

    this leader of the ranch should be locked up and key lost

    April 16, 2008 at 2:23 am |
  13. DParker

    My wife said she'd be crying her eyes out.

    April 16, 2008 at 2:14 am |
  14. sarah Vaal

    Since it's doubtful any victim is stepping forward to aid prosecution, there's room for a compromise here. The FLDS men can allow themselves to be monitored on a frequent basis for underage pregancies and marriages and other abuse. They need to allow representatives from Shelters and CPS to meet privately with their women and children and offer safe alternatives and escape routes if necessary. They should be able to come to the middle here and wait until the girls become of legal age before marriage. This in exchange for the return of the children. Let's face it, most of these children haven't been abused. But there is potential for abuse. We need to deal with the potential. Now what to do about the pregnant teens. I'd suggest massive counseling, however the damage has been done. Let them return to the compound...providing there is intensive monitoring.

    April 16, 2008 at 2:08 am |
  15. panos

    What is the ratio of boys to girls rescued in the compount? Too many girls?
    In addition, how about the elders of that community? I saw only fairly young people, ages below 50's living in their compount. What kind of care do they provide to the elders? Where are they?

    April 16, 2008 at 1:56 am |
  16. Bryce Taylor

    A Canadian perspective. Taking children from drug addicts, I might understand, but taking children from loving mothers? Where are all the grandparents and parents of America... what would you feel like if your grandchild or child was isolated tonight fearfully looking into the face of a stranger and fearfully going to bed in a strange place. The innocents are bearing the emotional pain. What form of justice is that? Round up the male patriarchal polygamous leaders and have it out with them in a court of law... but not the children... let them live with their mothers until this has been worked out. My plea is that the FDLS male leaders take the moral high road and surrender themselves in exchange for the return of their children. What we have here is a government out of control!!

    April 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
    • Rich

      Kids who are taken from drug abusers also must face their fears of looking into the faces of strangers and sleeping in strange beds. I went to school with a girl who was in a polygamist cult. She eventually left the cult and said she never knew true happiness until after she left. But it's still hard for her because the cult doesn't allow her to contact her siblings.

      August 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  17. sam

    of course child abuse should not be tolerated in any society . but what we see in YFZ Ranch persecution is State of Texas is not persecuting child abuser but robbing the children from already abused mothers who have only reason to live is because of their children.

    April 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  18. Mrs. Carolyn J. Welch

    The women in the El Dorado Compound are "weeping and worrying" over their own minor children in a misconception of right and wrong.. These Mommies are subjecting their own daughters to lives as prostitutes and are trading their innocent virgin minors for a roof, clothes, and food, to any who wants to take a minor and use her. Those "deeply grieving " Mommies are pimping out their girls and teaching the young boys to disrespect woman kind. I'm so proud of the Texas agencies and the police who went in to rescue the children from those child molesters .

    April 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  19. Helen

    It's just sad that the women are so brain washed. The government had no choice, but to separate the women when they kept changing names and date the lawyers couldn't sort out each child. Besides the child abuse problems where is the money coming from to sort these large families?

    April 15, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  20. narnia

    Wow..this story is sad in many respects. I believe in religious freedom as much as any american. But, we live in america and no one should be forced to live a life they don't agree on. The women and men who choose this life can go on and do it, as far as i am concerned. But, no child should be forced to believe or do anything, and no child should be married or abused. That is the problem here. That children were forced into marriages with old men. Or even young men. Religious freedoms should end when another individual's rights are taken away. In fact, there are religions such as santaria that require blood sacrifices of animals like chickens and they are not allowed. There should be no less for children!

    April 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  21. Sandy

    Polygamy is nothing more than adultery under a "religious" veil. I recently read the book "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop (whose former "husband" is the leader of the YFZ ranch) and was appaled at what these women and children endure. I feel that the men in the polygamous communities know exactly what they are doing – they exploit these women and children for their satisfaction.

    April 15, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  22. Eddi

    It seems many laws have been broken in this location, starting from the lie about the use of the Ranch.

    With the religious freedom in the US it seems that we are all bond to follow the law of the land here. If any government funds of any kind are used by the compond it seems that they would have to have proper ID, Birth certificate, marriage license etc etc, yet this group sets it's self apart from the US laws and when needed and wanted uses them and US government funds to live.

    I wonder if any income taxes are paid for equal value of living accomadations and work etc or any money they actually get to keep?

    I think that DNA tests need to be given and proper identification of families validated and all government records made and validated if these people are part of the USA like all other persons are expected to follow the laws.

    With the unlawfulness of this compound and the number of childern, removal of the men from the Ranch and bringing in care providers and security, moving the childern back and starting proper education, health care with complete freedom to leave as they want should be possible under the law.

    April 15, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  23. Annie Kate

    I don't think the women in the FLDS compound had any choice either; the pressure of what they were taught from childhood plus the expectations of their community would be hard to resist when they were told they must marry. It would be hard to leave too if you have a lot of children that you want to take with you and not many job skills to help you get a good enough job to support yourself and your children. Staying at the compound in that situation probably seems much safer than going it alone on the outside.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 15, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  24. Darrell Filkins

    I have only one question; Who is paying for this way of life?

    April 15, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  25. DavidGilitiuk

    Why are these mothers not in jail for child abuse. Do they not live under the laws of this country? here in AZ mothers who pimp out thier own children to old men are thrown in jail! Why then do these spiritual marriages (which are not legal marriages) allow mothers to give the children to these perverts! What a scam ! Now every child molester knows where to go to get young girls to abuse. Just join an above the law sect like the FLDS.

    April 15, 2008 at 7:55 pm |
  26. Jill

    The forced "marriages" of young girls is a horrible crime but we should not forget that young boys are also at risk. I have read that many of them are sent away from home at the age of 13 or 14. Some are just left by the side of the road and told not to contact their family again. Obviously, you can't have a closed polygimous system and not do something to get rid of the extra males. This is a cruel living system for both genders and we have laws in all of our States to prevent this kind of abuse from taking place. This should be prosecuted and offenders should be punished.

    April 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  27. Melissa

    It's hard to convince people to change their views and beliefs if that's what they grew up with and all they know. I agree we should stop giving them welfare assistance and leave them to their religion. There should be a number they could call for those who want out of that life.

    April 15, 2008 at 7:15 pm |
  28. Mike in NYC

    J wrote:

    "Tax payers are victims too and we should demand our money back from these thieves that steal from our welfare system."

    Let's hope you're not being selective in your outrage.

    Assuming that they were bilking the system, we're talking about a few hundred people here. Contrast that with literally millions of welfare dependents in our urban areas, with multi-generational dependency not unusual.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:41 pm |
  29. Louise

    When interviewing whom ever was in control of making the decision to remove the women and children from the compand, ask "Why not remove the men from the compound, instead?" Leave the women and children where they are comfortable, and can be interviewed without feeling threatened.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:39 pm |
  30. J

    The victims are not just the young girls. Tax payers are victims too and we should demand our money back from these thieves that steal from our welfare system.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  31. anon

    Please seek the truth, don't listen to writers who profess to know all about it because they had a bad experience.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  32. LJRoy

    Someone in the government HAS to be worried that this will become another Waco.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  33. Munawar

    I am from Pakistan. In Pakistan, whenever a women is raped, she feel lucky to be taken to jail, in comparison to being killed for honour by family members. Even President of Pakistan speaks against them. woman's sin is only her weakness. In Eldorado, children and women are victims of abuse by sect members. Just like pakistani women, here these children and women are being punished one way are the other. why every where victimizers skip clean?

    April 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm |

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