April 16th, 2008
11:00 AM ET

On Polygamy: former FLDS member speaks out

Kathy Jo Nicholson
Former FLDS member

I grew up in the FLDS. I know first-hand the abuse that takes place under the ruse of religious freedom. In August of 2006, when Warren Jeffs entered the courtroom most people saw a pathetic image of a man in chains. I saw my former teacher —- the man who intimidated us and who eventually became the one to whom we were to declare unquestioning obedience as our Prophet. As I viewed Warren Jeffs in chains I couldn’t help but think about the many women and children still bound in psychological chains inside the FLDS. When I thought about his chains, I remembered theirs.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/16/art.maryjo.jpg caption=" Kathy Jo Nicholson is a former member of Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect"]

Recently, the state of Texas intervened in behalf of many of those children and young women, who are bound by the chains of abuse. Many have been born into it and they do not know any other lifestyle. They’ve never experienced the freedom to think for themselves or to freely question their leaders. They’ve been told to keep "sweet," to sacrifice their feelings for the greater "good." They’ve been taught that perfect obedience leads to perfect faith. When you are taught that it is a sin to think or question things, you begin to function in total obedience to the will of another. It is as if you are a robot made to do the bidding of your husband and the Prophet.
When you listen to the women who have been separated from their children, your first thought may be sorrow for the women who are experiencing the pain. I was among the first to say that the children should not be separated from their mothers. But these mothers also need to stop enabling these men to hurt their children. They need to seek help and counseling for themselves so that they can in turn help their children. These women are victims, too. They were raised in the FLDS, and told not to question it. I urge them to get out and let their minds be freed from these chains of mental abuse.
Women who are trapped in abuse are often unable to see the damage that it is doing to their children. It is only when they remove themselves from that abuse that they can see the truth. 

I urge the women of the FLDS to realize that their husbands and leaders are guilty of the very things they accuse the government of Texas of doing. They have separated children from their real mothers in Colorado City and placed them in the Texas compound. They have lived in dormitories and many of these children may not know where their real mothers are. I am aware of one situation where a man took only his favored wives with him to Eldorado, but he took all of the children. He left the remaining wives behind without access to their kids.

The FLDS has done this and claimed it is their right to "practice their religion." 

Wake up women of the FLDS! These are your children! And you have contributed to their abuse! I know you are frightened. I know that some of you feel righteous, but it is never right to abuse a child. Your daughters are being given to men while they are still children!

Enough is enough. Speak out. Get help.

Stop the abuse!

For more information, check out OutofPolygamy.com

Filed under: Polygamy
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Cathy, Texas

    Madie – is it true that girls of 14 are "given" in marriage to old men? This is child abuse... Is it true many of these people live on welfare? This is abuse of the system...
    If you asked young boys to leave your community, you have denied these children the guidance they need from their parents, and left it to the state and to us, the larger community, to clean up the mess. Then you "bleed the beast" so we have to take money out of our pockets to take care of your other children! That is neither socially nor personally responsible – what kind of role models are you?
    IMHO it is the responsibility of the family to take care of their children and raise them to be responsible adults (and don't have so many you can take care of them all!) – it sounds as if your community has given up on the boys you don't care for and thrown them out into a wilderness they were not educated to know how to survive (perhaps to eliminate competition), and sacrificed the girls to the passions of old men who "lead" the community. Sounds like the only winners here are the wolves licking their collective chops... A sick system, that is...

    July 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  2. Madie R

    I am shocked that there is SO many misinformed people out there! I am an FLDS member. My Mother grew up with Kathy Jo so I know alot about her. All that she is saying is ALL lies! She was never abused by Warren Jeffs, and she knows it! My Mother was in the same classes with her so she will back me up. Why can't people ever do a full research on us before you speak. Go to truthwillprevail.org and fldstruth.org and you will find out the truth. It's so funny how there is some people that have left, like Kathy Jo, that make up all these lies about our people and Prophet just to get popular. I have an older sister that left a few years ago, she made her choice to leave and we let her. yup we let her. Next time you open your mouth make sure you hear both sides of the story will ya! As for the lost boys. Ha, you all have been so decived by those little druggies! I have a brother in law that was one of the "lost boys". He told me that Dan Fisher paid him and gave him beer to go to news confrences. I know most of these boys. They got asked out for very good reasons. They did drugs, stole things from the local grocery store drank alcohol and they were only 16 to 17 years old! My brother in law left when he was 16. His own will and choice. Guess where he is now, PRISON. He is in there on numerous charges and will be for a long time to come. My husband and I tried to help him leave his criminal life behind but he didn't want to. Most of those boys left on their own, but some were asked out, mostly by their Fathers, beacuse they set a very bad example to their siblings. Enough said. I ask that all who read this to get informed, not by people like Kathy Jo and Carolyn Jessop, but by the people who aren't bitter. Ya you can talk to people that have left, just find the ones like my sister, that aren't trying to make a name for themselves, but will tell you the truth. thanks

    May 16, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  3. Tony- Edmonds, WA

    Warren Jeffs. Another fruit loop in a bowl full of cheerios.

    Most people read an article like this and think how sad. I read an article like this and wonder why if God was lonely and wanted companionship they why did he create humans? He should have just gotten a dog (sorry, no balsephemy intended). It's not the first time I've seen the evil of man. I've seen it all over this world. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia back in '94. The butchery in Chechnya in '95 and the killing fields that were Sudan later that year. A guy like Jeffs is nothing. Prophet? Messiah? An old grizzled ex-Ranger seargent once told me that the day you think you are a God, Samuel Colt will prove just how mortal you really are. Perhaps through all the death and killing and bloodshed and war that has been a part of my life I've become extremely jaded. When it comes to violence and atrocities most of the time I simply don't feel anything. However, there are still a few things that tend to get my dander up. Don't mess with children. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court said that raping a child is not punishable by death. Then again, I could care less what those rat turds with robes say. Mess with a child in our family and I tend to think the old Appalachian way: "I'll just plain kill you, stone cold dead." From half a mile out through a scope or cutting your throat while you sleep, I promise I'll personally introduce you to the Devil down below. Not exactly the Christian like way, I know. We can never truly defeat Evil in this mere mortal world. We can only make a valiant stand against it. But to quote the legendary Davy Crockett: "I leave these words for others when I'm dead, Be always sure you are right- then go on ahead." We are right. The Jim Joneses, David Koreshes, and Warren Jeffs of this world are wrong. Make your stand.

    Enough said.

    July 23, 2008 at 7:23 am |
  4. Sam

    The whole of the Mormon relgion is a cult, under the facade of Christianity. Those who KNOW the workings of this religion, know it is a cult and not Christianity the Bible speaks about. We have family members who are associated with this relgion and while they are not living in such a compound, they are still in need of help of breaking free of this horrific religion. We are glad Kathy is free of it and is speaking out the truth.

    May 27, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  5. Jackie in Arizona

    I have read Carolyn Jessop's book "Escape". There is no doubt in my mind that so much abuse is going on in every single compound. No one has ever mentioned Warren Jeff's nephew. He has been on TV, telling everyone that Warren Jeffs sexually abused him when he was young. And when CNN filmed the inside of the compound, all you saw on the walls were pictures of Warren Jeffs. That is so sick, it reminds me of Saddam Hussein. Pictures everywhere. And also the FLDS women are like the women of Afganistan ruled by the evil Taliban. The men in the FLDS are like the Taliban and the women wear the pioneer dresses is eerily similar to the Burqas the oppressed Afganistan women wear. And this is the USA and this is going on. The FLDS women are oppressed and they are like robots. I also thought they are so emotionless. They think the outside world is evil, yet they think nothing of going on welfare. We pay for their welfare. Also, as far as abuse, remember Carolyn Jessop said that the men put infants under cold running water and let the water run into their mouths until they are exhausted from crying and screaming. They worship men like Warren Jeffs, they think he is God. This twisted religion has them very brainwashed. America has to do something. I hope that the compound is torn down and God bless Texas for intervening. I just wish Arizona would have done something much sooner.

    April 24, 2008 at 3:35 am |
  6. Mariann Asbury

    Yes, I would love to read that book. I would love to speak with her too. I do not see why these women are so defensive of the allegations. Their top leader is in jail for the same reason for goodness sake.

    A leader sets the agenda for the whole group and we know from insiders that he changed the age down to 14 for marriages. Come on, do not fool anybody, make no mistake.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  7. Ellen in Texas

    I urge everyone to read Carolyn Jessop's book "Escape" so you will have insight into the FLDS and why something needs to be done. This is only the beginning of what will turn out to be the largest and most tragic case of mental/physical abuse our generation will know.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  8. Mariann Asbury

    Wow, this whole scenario is getting my full attention. What has amazed me is the interviews of the women in the compound.

    One says that the children are hearing terrible things through questioning that they never have been exposed to before. Is she talking about the same terrible things she herself has been going through? Why the word terrible if they call it heaven on earth?

    Next, when Larry King asked them if they knew of under age marriages they were very hesitant to answer. They had to think out the answer before speaking. And when they answered it was not yes or no, it was not that I am aware of times 3.

    When they were asked if anybody had seen any sexual acts with minors with their own eyes, they all answered at the same time, NO. Why, because that was the truth. They hide when they do these things, so of course nobody saw it happen. My point exactly, I think when you tell the truth, you have a quick answer, not all this hesitating.

    I believe all the women think they are one in Christ. That is why they stand strong together and have decided to say the same things.

    It is sad to see their pain. But it also looks like a lot of their tears are not real. It sometimes look like those fake tears guilty people will make in Court. A lot of it seems emotionless to me.

    I am appalled. They say the children are clean and pure. That is true even if they have been abused. The children would not get dirty and unpure by what others do to them. Lets talk about the men. Are they clean and pure................They are not even there to explain. They let the women talk for them.I wonder if the women are reaching some kind of reward if they do a good job of it.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  9. Cookie South Dakota

    To Joan, you ask where the grandmothers are. They are in Colorado City and Hildale known as Shortcreek. Once a daughter is given in marriage their mother gives up all contact with their daughters. They may see them IF they live in shortcreek, but if they are moved off to one of the many compounds around the country they may not talk to their mothers ever! I do hope all realise that these woman only talked and stated what they were told to say. I truly believe that the kids are out of the compound due to underage marriages, rape to these young brides that are not a legal marriage since the old men have many other wife's. I have had the opportunity to talk with a woman that has left the cult and it is amazing to me what these woman go thru. Religious freedom yes, but not to the point that it puts woman and children in a situation that is here in SD and the other compounds. In the middle of nowhere and not knowing how to get out of a compound that has a large guard tower to keep them in.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm |
  10. Debbie, NJ

    Where are the men in this case. If the children are being abused they're doing it. Where are they. You see 1 or 2 in the videos or TV.
    Nobody is talking about them. Are they incarcerated? Are they in hiding? I know about the lost boys but all 400 plus kids don't belong to Jeffs.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:51 am |
  11. Slater

    Yeah, interesting how there is no mention of sex abuse, spiritual marriage to underage girls, or physical abuse. She only alleges "mental abuse". All of the reaction in posts above are to alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.

    You can cry out, you can get angry, but remember that the very laws in this country that protect YOUR free will allow such organizations to thrive in this country.

    Hmmm, church and state separation, government intervention...what to do???

    April 17, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  12. Joan

    My question is: where are the grandmothers of these children? Why did they allow their daughters to do this? This generation must take a stand against these men or the abuse will continue.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  13. Dinie C

    My thing is, these people have been living there for years, conceiving children for years, if the law says you can't have more than 1 wife, then go after the guy, but give those women their children back, in the best interest crap makes me sick, a child will always be better with their own mother, like we say in my language, the dog will never bite his own kid thru the bones. Anyways what we need is God in our lives, if you have not notice this world is coming to an end, how about we focus our lives in Christ, ask Him to cleans us from this sinfull world, to protect us to guide us from all evil, believe it or not, nothing is going to get better, things are going to get harder and harder, it is the reality according to the bible, it says when see these times then you know my coming is near. God bless you all.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:23 am |
  14. B.J

    I agree that this is a balled up mess and has been for a long time. The State of Texas, however knew they were there. In all these years, could they not have started some conflict-resolution and educate these women that they did not have to yield to this? These men should have been taken into some kind of counceling, or been on probation that if they proceeded with this, there would be consequences.
    Same for these Mothers and children. It might have taken time to work on the issue, but it would have been better than storming the place like the Nazi's did in Germany. That is what it looked like to me. The women did not have personal counselors and were asked to make a quick decision about where they wanted to be, when they were still in shock and did not know what was going on. I am saying also, this is not right what these men do, but look at these groups who do not allow their children to have medicine and die.
    I just believe this situation could have been handled better if there had been some lawyers and counslers to get this mess straight for the past few years instead of the trama we all saw.
    It also reminded me of the time they knocked down the door of the little boy from Cuba whose mother had drowned. Just the act of seeing the storm troopers would tramatize a grown up, much less a child. We need to find alternative ways and work together on these issues.

    April 17, 2008 at 5:23 am |
  15. Jay FL

    I have seen these 'Stepford' women–run down from having so many children–going through so many pregnancies and having so many under foot. I've watched them smile, and smile, and smile–this tortured smile of chaos all around them while attempting to appear above the fray. Smiling with frown lines between their tired eyes. I've listened as the men counsel their women to share responsibilities with each other and to give each other breaks from the children/for a few hours so the mother can to work, go buy groceries or perform church duties...never did hear the men counselling each other on how THE MEN could take some load off their women.

    The exact feeling I got while being around these women was 'Stepford Wives.' They talk of how happy, happy, happy they are while their temples are visably pounding and they're chasing one kid out of the street and another out of the van and yet another back into the house, with one on their hip and at least two whining the whole time at their heals...with NO man around to help. When dad comes in, what does he do? He sits down in the middle of the chaos and lets his 'always smiling' wife wait on him hand and foot while cleaning up yet another spill, changing yet another diaper, studying to teach yet another class, preparing to complete more church chores (which their leaders tell them their God has 'called' THEM to do) and all the while the 'dad' is making eyes at his teenage step-daughter and the step-daughter is making eyes back and they kid and play around with each other while 'Mom' is 'the only thing' holding down the fort. Yea. They're really hap-hap-happy. Sadly, that's the only 'happy' they've ever known.

    Thank you Kathie Joe for having the courage to speak out. You are far more courageous than the so-called men of FLDS. Don't let the critics get you down! You know what you've come through. Bet they'd get a belly full, and far more than they bargain for if you called their bluff and just started naming off the injustices you've suffered. You are a much stronger person than any of them.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:56 am |
  16. cynde

    In watching the women being interviewed tonight..I was stunned to see that they all speak in the same style, tone, and use the same words. It is obvious that they are controlled in every way. Something about the way they speak is really unnerving! I agree with the person from Canada that states that the women who have escaped would be the best at helping in this situation with the children.

    I also found it interesting in the interviews, the way the women spoke of their girls. There was no mention of the boys?? The women sleep in the same room as the girls as one of the mothers stated..that she couldn't stand sleeping in the room because her girls were not there anymore?? Sounds like a brothel to me.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:46 am |
  17. Ruth

    Cronus, you have just admitted being abused by the FLDS. I thought that is what the subject was about? Sorry about that by the way.

    If nothing is going right in your life and someone extends you kindness and emotional support, even on a deceitful level, anyone can fall as prey if you are vulnerable. That is what deceit and manipulation does. Most of these people wouldn't know any other way, you become conditioned to your environment. You have to be out of it ,to recognise it.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:40 am |
  18. mollyfurie

    Taj asked where to the men get the money to support their 'wives' & huge numbers of children. They mostly DON'T earn it. The women are considered single mothers – their marriages are not legal – & they collect welfare – which they share with the 'prophet.' It's a kind of socialist dictatorship, but the money comes from outside. 90% of the children are estimated by the state to live in poverty. The 'prophet' and his henchmen have big cars & whatever they need, while the women & children live on food stamps & get medicaid. They call it 'bleeding the beast' – the beast being the government, which is being bled of taxpayers' blood.

    They also do some defense manufacturing & construction work. Those who are employed in their companies work for little or nothing – for 'redemption' apparently. These companies get US GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS. Again, your tax dollars at work.

    See film 'Banking on Heaven.'

    April 17, 2008 at 1:34 am |
  19. Karen

    I am a Canadian citizen and appreciate the coverage CNN has brought on the polygamist story in Texas.
    You have featured many women who have previously left the polygamist compound and created a new life in the main stream of your society. It strikes me this was not an easy transition and was probably quite confusing and even terrifying at times.
    I was wondering if the US government would utilize these women and their experiences having been on both sides of these social environments, to help the women and children currently in the custody/care of the US government? I would think they would be the best people to assist at this crucial time and be able to bridge the cultures better than most of the professionals currently assisting.
    K. Newman, student of Social Work, Canada

    April 16, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    Stepford wives – an interesting analogy. I had thought of that myself at first but in watching the FLDS wives and their outrage and their lack of tears over the separation of them from their children as well as their constant refusal to answer questions pertinent to the daily behavior of the compound members, I think they are more like robots – programmed to act one way only and say only certain things and to ignore reality and the reality of their lifestyle. These women are victims of the FLDS society too; they just fail to recognize it and they fail to act in any way to stop the endless cycle in which they live.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  21. Jolene

    Kathy Jo: I appreciate your passion and I too, hope, the women speak out. I hate to see a woman being used, abused, or forced into submission, especially by a man. The enormity of women and children involved is this sect is just shocking to me. It really shouldn't be happening in this day and age.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 16, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  22. Carol B., Virginia

    Kathy Jo – Your message is a conflicted one. EVERYONE has free will and it's most mothers inborn instinct to protect their children.This doesn't mean to excuse their every transgression, but still to protect them. You seem to be both an apologist and a critic of the FLDS women. This is a very polarized debate and you can't play both sides. Are these children available for adoption? A cult is truely a DSM certified situation to remove children from their parents! My guess is that God would agree because these children are being exploited in the name of false Gods and religion.Personally, I don't think God puts his stamp of approval on anything that harms children.

    April 16, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  23. Holly

    Amen, Cookie South Dakota. Remember Susan Smith and her fake crying as she begged for her children she knew to be in the bottom of a lake? I see the same thing, no tears. The children need us they say, yet many of these children can't even name their mothers or fathers. I think they will have to DNA test all of these children to figure out who are their actual mothers and fathers. Religious freedom is not freedom to abuse.

    April 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  24. Beverly

    As I watch these "Stepford wives" on the news trying to convince us all they are not brainwashed, I think they should look at their own actions and see that they are. What mother in her right mind would voluntarily leave her children and return home without the children they claim are so precious. It was reported that they were given a choice, stay with their children in a safe place or go back to the ranch. Six of the mothers coose to stay, the rest went back to the Ranch and now they want ti whine about it to anyone with a news camera crew. Give me a break.

    April 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  25. Taj

    Kathy Jo, like you all FLDS men, ladies, young girls & boys need to make a choice whether they like the life they are living in FLDS or come out & face the real world, education, work, earn, pay the bills, have freedom of thought & action. The outside world is by no means easy. I suppose in FLDS the man is the provider. I do not know where you get the money to support that many people, build that facility, pay for medical, taxes, education & all other expenses? It is your survival & there is nothing wrong in the way you choose to live.

    April 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm |
  26. Cookie South Dakota

    I have watched several videos of these woman at the YFZ ranch and I find it strange that they are crying but NO tears. No red eyes. If my children had been taken from me my eye would be so red from crying that I would not be able to see. I see woman on the balcony smiling and looking very happy. If their children were of great concern their eyes would be red. Plus how can they cry for their children when their sons are kicked out and become a lost boy so the older men can have the young girls. Do they cry for that lost boy when kicked out of the cult? I feel this is a double standard on the mothers part. Thank you Kathy Jo for a well stated response to this issue. I read all I can about this cult as they are my neighbors in SD at their 160 acre compound in Custer county.

    April 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  27. Kyle

    Any time people are taught to totally obey and not questtion something there is a form of abuse. People that state religious freedom must also allow a general freedom, such as questioning, as it is another basic right of being an American.

    April 16, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  28. tammi vancouver bc canada

    thank you for shareing your story!

    i feel bad 4 the kids, the mothers need to get a reality check,

    they alowed this to happen no child should be abused

    April 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  29. Cronus

    Do you really know if these children are being abused? Or is it just based on your bad experience in a polygamist camp? You state, "I grew up in the FLDS. I know first-hand the abuse that takes place under the ruse of religious freedom." Are you saying that abuse happened under the FLDS? Or are you saying abuse happens under the ruse of religious freedom? In your article, you never blandly state, "I was abused by members of the FLDS.". So what is the truth? Is this article true in stating abuse is a widespread happening in the FLDS? Or is this article based maybe on your experince of something you disagreed with inside the FLDS?

    April 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  30. Judy Stage Brooklyn MI

    Wow Kathy, What a powerful message to the women of the FLDS.
    Their plight is a complex issue in the scheme of life. However, most mothers know when their children are in danger and most mothers would do anything to keep their children from harm and it is surreal to see these mothers pleading for the return of their children back to the dangers of a cult environment.

    April 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

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