April 22nd, 2008
12:02 PM ET

Increasingly strange changes in the FLDS community

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/23/book.292.320.jessop.jpg caption="Copyright © 2007 by Visionary Classics, LLC From the book Escape by Carolyn Jessop, co-author Laura Palmer, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission." width=292 height=320]By 1995, Warren Jeffs was becoming a subtle and more powerful presence in our daily lives. This struck me as odd because there were many other men who were more powerful in the FLDS than he. But he was Uncle Rulon’s favored son, and the prophet would often say that Warren spoke for him.

Warren spoke in other ways. He began teaching special priesthood history classes in Salt Lake City where he still worked as the principal at a private FLDS school. The classes were taped, and Tammy’s sister came to our house one day enthusiastically talking about how much information they contained. I wondered why anyone would care about whatever Warren Jeffs had to say. Tammy’s sister said that these tapes were not available to just anybody. Only the privileged could purchase them.

Once the tapes gained exclusive status every family in the community wanted a set. Some people who heard them found them disgusting and said they were little more than Warren’s racist rants. He claimed that the black race was put on earth to preserve evil.

I decided to listen to them myself. Warren based his talks on foundational FLDS. doctrine. He spoke in a strange, trance-like voice that seemed deliberately aimed at hypnotizing the listener. One set of tapes described how God would destroy everyone on the North and South American continents. Then he went on and recited a lengthy list of things a person would have to do before he or she could be lifted off the earth.

Anyone who hoped to ascend had to live with a burning in their chest at all times and that burning was the spirit of God. The tapes were becoming so popular that there was a frenzy among those who were trying to get them. There exclusivity gave them great status and everyone wanted to get hold of a set.

Warren spoke at church and elaborated on how the burning in our chest would presage being lifted from the earth. Those who didn’t have it would be destroyed along with the wicked.

It was around this time when Warren banned the color red. He announced that it was inappropriate to wear the color red or have red items in our home because it was reserved for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He preached that when Jesus Christ returns he’ll do so in a red robe and wearing that color prior to the second coming is unholy.

He made the pronouncement one Sunday in church and those wearing red went home immediately and changed clothes. Other families got rid of every red item they owned. This was a hardship for families without much money. Children lost a lot of clothes, coats and boots. Women with red in their dresses had to get rid of them; for some this meant throwing out a sizable percentage of their wardrobe. Some families adapted to this with a more moderate approach; when the red clothes, toys, or household items wore out, they would abandon them. The more extreme families discarded all red items immediately.

One teacher told her students red wasn’t a bad color, it was beautiful. The students reported her rebellion to their parents. The parents complained and asked that the teacher, who was not a member of the FLDS, respect their beliefs and asked that red be removed from her classroom.

Merril had always liked red. In our family we went through the closets and eliminated most of our red clothes. That evening I watched the sunset - a blaze of orange and red. If God wanted red preserved for Jesus Christ alone, did he spread it across the sky in such abandon?

When some of us gathered for coffee later that week at Linda’s the topic of having a burning in our chests as a proof or righteousness came up again. Jane, my high-spirited cousin I played “Apocalypse” with as a child, kicked off the discussion. “Ladies, I have one question. What the hell is this burning in your chest all about anyway? I always thought that burning is mastitis.” (Mastitis is an infection common to nursing mothers.) Everyone laughed. Someone asked Jane how she dared question the requirements about being lifted up. “Well,” she said, “If I have to have a breast infection to be lifted up, then no thank you! I would rather die with the wicked!”

The discussion then became more serious about what felt like a new extremism taking root in the community that felt more radical than anything that we’d known in the past. One of the women recounted a harrowing story about one of the police officers in the FLDS.

(All of the police officers in our community were FLDS members which complicated matters if a woman tried to escape, because she’d get no help or protection from police. It also made reporting domestic violence almost meaningless because the police would always side with the husband.)

I had rarely ever heard a story as disturbing as I did that morning. The FLDS police officer wanted to take his wife up to the Steeds ranch to teach her a lesson in obedience. He put her in a pen with a bull and then tied a rope to the neck of the bull. He told his wife, who was pregnant, that she had to control the bull with the rope on orders of her priesthood head. She tried to hang on to the bull but he ran off and she ended up being dragged until she let go of the rope.

Her husband got into the pen and handed her the rope again and told her she had to hold on. But the bull pulled away from her and her husband became enraged. This time he took the end of the rope and tied it around the neck of the bull and told her she better hang on this time. But it was impossible. The third time he tied the rope to her so she could not let go. She was dragged around the ring again and so badly injured she lost the baby - which then became her fault because she was so disobedient.

When I heard it I told the group I had a burning sensation in my chest—I wanted to kill the guy. The others agreed and we talked about what we’d do if he ever pulled us over. The story was well -circulated in the community because the man’s stepmother became aware of what he’d done to his wife and was so incensed that she started talking about it. No one went to the authorities because we knew the woman would deny the whole thing. We all knew we were powerless when it came to protecting ourselves. I feared that it was an example of hysteria that was manifesting itself in extreme ways. This police officer had carried the notion of "perfect obedience" to a criminal level.

The obedience Warren preached was a woman’s complete submission to her husband. He said women should not work outside the home and should not even leave home unless allowed to do so by her husband.

We’d always kept our coffee meetings quiet, but now we knew we had to be even more careful. We began to be much more circumspect about what we were doing as changes swept over our community. As women were required to leave the workforce because of Jeffs’ new doctrines, it became harder for some families to make ends meet.

The changes Warren Jeffs mandated were obeyed because it was believed he was the voice of the prophet, Uncle Rulon. People did not resist the more oppressive policies he advocated. Instead, it was widely believed that we were being called to a higher way of living the gospel. This wasn’t oppression, this was grace. God was giving us a new and better way of being more faithful to him via the prophet and his mouthpiece, Warren Jeffs.

People who feared these changes and sensed danger, like me, kept quiet. It wasn’t safe anymore to talk about what you were feeling. Women now were not even supposed to go into town without the company of a man. Our husbands were our lord and supreme master who held exclusive power over our lives. It was seen as no longer acceptable for a woman to enter into the same room as her husband without first saying a personal prayer asking God to put the same spirit on her as her husband’s.

I saw this as a real dilemma for because most of the time when I entered the same room as Merril he was usually in a very bad mood. If I had the same spirit that he had one of us might get hurt. This doctrine was one I decided to ignore.


Carolyn Jessop
Former FLDS Member/Co-Author of "Escape"
Editor's Note: The following an excerpt from Carolyn Jessop's memoir "Escape," which recounts her life inside of a polygamist community and her dramatic flight.






Filed under: Barclay Palmer • Carolyn Jessop • Laura Palmer • Polygamy
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. egh

    Wow, CJ, what would it take to get it through to you that these women are telling the truth? Do you perhaps need to live there for a few years yourself? Geez, if anyone needs to calm down, lady, its definitely you. These women have and are being abused in the worst possible way.

    Carolyn, thank you for your bravery. I applaud you for educating the rest (or most, anyway lol) of us.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  2. Anna

    Objective? Okay, fine. I can objectively state that ANY religion that says that a woman must dress as these women are required to do, have no say in who they marry, must marry shortly after puberty to a man old enough to be her father (at minimum) and continue to have baby after baby after baby... starting shortly after menarche, that IS abuse. No question. What is even sadder is that these women are raised to accept it as normal so they don't see it as the abuse that it is.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:44 am |
  3. Amy

    CJ, I have to agree with the others. You are the one acting defensively here. What you forget, is when there is any uncertainty...ANY, the state must remove children from that environment. If the child has siblings, they also must be removed until the investigation is complete.

    This is not about the right to practice a certain religion, it is about the safety and well being of 412 children, who have no voice about the way the are are raised or treated. I applaud TX, it was a courageous move to step out against a religious sect to protect children, especially given the ignorance of many people in America.

    You are focusing on the religion not the children...just like the mothers in the FDLS cult.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:23 am |
  4. GMG

    CJ – I grew up in a mormon family with my father as head of household, my stepmother as 2nd wife and my step-grandmother the the third wife (my natural mother died of cancer when I was quite young). My father had been excommunicated from the "modern" Mormon church because of his belief in polygamy. The memoirs of former FLDS members are not just "opinions," but factual accounts of what went on (goes on) behind the doors of FLDS homes. In my case, imagine growing up in a home where polygamy was openly practiced but yet hid from the prying eyes of society. As kids, we were not allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities (school or other) for fear that we would draw attention to ourselves and the family. Rarely, if ever, were we allowed to have school friends over to the house. Rarely, if ever, were we allowed to go to a friends house or sleep over at a friend's house. "Church" always took place around the family dinner place, where we received "teachings" from the Book of Mormon. As girls, we were not encouraged to pursue a higher education (I did that MYSELF later in life). I think if it hadn't been for state laws, it would have been preferable for us to stay home. As for our clothing, my brothers were allowed to wear t-shirts and jeans, but I didn't get my first pair of jeans until I was 12, and they certainly weren't given to me by my parents/step-parents, but by my grandmother (my mother's mom) who thought the whole situation was "rubbish." As a first-hand survivor, I resent anyone who never "experienced" the Mormon polygamist environment stating that the experiences are "opinion." Granted, the "modern" Mormon church has greatly revised (as evidenced by my father's excommunciation) its "teachings" to appear more "mainstream society" to the public's eye, but the extremist teachings upon which FLDS was originally founded DO still exist and DO still continue, even under the naive noses of modern day society. This is not a rush to judgement, but a common sense representation of fact and logic.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:12 am |
  5. Ron, Sherwood, OR

    Carolyn, Mr. Jeff certainly does not know or understand the Jesus Christ I have come to know and understand. Jesus is a God of passion, forgiveness and understanding. He is the only TRUE God and only true Lord that we are all going to give account to. Mr. Jeff could not possible Him or he would not have acted as he has. Get to know the real Jesus... the living Jesus... He will set you free of this crazy stuff once and for all.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:17 am |
  6. NC

    So many times throughout history we have ignored these kind of situations. As a nation we were way to slow to recognize what was happening to the Jewish nation until a million were killed. Abuse is always kept secret as long as possible. No wonder the compound, "ranch" was guarded. They did not want the world or government to know the dirty little secrets that were obviously going on.
    Sharing your story is a brave and noble thing to do. Any group that follows a man who is in prision for terrible crimes is a sick individaul. NO criminal is worth following.
    Think about the color red for instance, no normal person would ever come up with such a hair-brained idea. In the normal world we would say this was crazy. Does that make it okay anywhere else? Ideas like these are sick and twisted. So now we teach our children to follow a man like this and then get upset when the government steps in to save the children. We need a reality check. I appreciate all the government is doing.
    I am SO glad the government did the responsible thing for once. Someone must save the children. No amount of abuse should be excused or ignored. I truely feel for the children who are taught to follow a sick prophet, not allowed normal play and then used as sex toys for older men. These children need our protection from these abuses, not to be sent back into this enviroment. Thank you Carolyn for speaking out and trying to save others.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:10 am |
  7. SCA

    CJ – I'm not sure it's a good thing to 'calm down' in the face of abuse. Any responsible adult should be able to choose their religion and what they believe in. But when people and children are forced to comply with religious tenets.... well, surely the protection against that kind of thing is what America was built on? Outrage is an entirely appropriate reaction here, so people who see abuse, or hear about it, or want to protest against it – please don't 'calm down'.

    April 23, 2008 at 6:33 am |
  8. Vitalis

    Thanks for exposing these ungodly treatments meted on women and children. To be sincere, this stuff is really strange to me, i never knew we have this magnitude of irrationality going on in this beautifully made world. Many thanks for sharig your piece, i hope many enclaved into this FLDS stuff will eventually fine peace and freedom.

    April 23, 2008 at 6:08 am |
  9. Alexandra, Austria

    CJ – The rest of the world looks at this situation objectively and sees it is a horror story...

    April 23, 2008 at 5:58 am |
  10. Angela

    If the US authorities had turned a "blind eye" to atrocities committed (whether its in the name of religion or not), they would be criticised. I'm sure that they would have completed their investigation without removing children, if their parents had co-operated with the investigation. If the community is doing nothing wrong (i.e. sex with under-age girls and physical abuse to stop independence), why were they so secretive and non-cooperative? Because they have been brainwashed into believing that sexual and physical abuse is to be expected, in fact honoured. I don't say that every person in the FLDS does that, but as they refused to cooperate with authorities, the authorities had no option but to remove them from this rather sick society. Those that are not involved in illegal activities will not be harmed, the law will protect them. Those that are convicted (and remember "not guilty" doesn't necessary mean "innocent") must be dealt with as any other offender. I am glad for intervention by the authorities, its just a pity the FLDS community can't as yet see it, because of lack of education, emotional abuse and brain-washing. I think this sends out a message: If an adult male breaks laws regarding sex with a minor – for whatever reason – he must be punished, even if the minor didn't instigate the complaint.

    April 23, 2008 at 5:13 am |
  11. Carnell, ATL

    Well Cj i read both of your posts and i would say that you advocate the FLDS in what they are trying to accomplish. But, being a black man that grew up in the inner city i have seen children taken from thier homes for less than what the FLDS group are accused of. I think honestly they got what they deserved to make a direct quote from Malcom X "the chickens cam home to roost". You just can not deny the fact that there are pregnan children and children who are wed to old men, that does not happen by accadent it happens by breaking the law. And at this time in our history when Obama is deamonized for words from his spiritual leader that were considered racist. How can anyone in thier right mind support FLDS i was under the impression that it was a no no, or is it just a no no for black preachers.

    April 23, 2008 at 4:59 am |
  12. amanda

    I get freedom of religion, but if you are living in a country where its law prohibits stuff like poligamy and sex under 16 or whatever age it is, then they should be took to court or move to a country where it is OK to practice these things. I mean the people of the country vote for the laws.

    I had never heard about this group before (Im from the UK) have read up on them and followed this story in the news quite closely as it is so interesting –
    as I just cant believe how these women put up with all this crap – obey your husband otherwise you are going to hell, a man needs to be married to more than one woman etc I laughed out loud as couldnt believe that they believe all this – it's obvious the men want the best of everything, it's so old fashioned and its brainwashing.

    I'm glad that the kids and mothers have been taken into state custody without fighting and killing. and it seems like the government has put alot of thought into making sure the kids are safe and not traumatised.

    I just don't get why the mothers and kids just can't tell the truth – surely god doesnt like liars (if they believe you cant wear the colour red! ) it would go alot quicker.
    Now that they are taking DNA it's going to show the truth, whos who, the parents of the kids, and Im guessing many are young teenagers.

    If raping and marrying of kids is going on it's very serious, and if they have lied and saying it isnt going on that's even more serious. How long has it been going on for, cant imagine if raping is going on – it might happen the whole of their lives. If my husband was off with other women I know I wouldnt want sex with him.

    I think this cult is crazy – the women that have talked on the videos sound like robots, they are clearly programmed!! If they care so much for "their" kids where is the emotion? If my child was took away and I believed that me or my religion hadn't done anything wrong – I'd be crying for REAL not just dabbing my cheeks with a hankerchief, I'd be shocked, I'd be angry , I would make desperate pleas, loads of emotions, and I'd be putting alot more effort into coming up with arguments as to why they should not have been taken. these women are just blank and say the same things over and over. and where are the fathers???

    They refuse to sort out the problems of the genetic defects as they prefer to get disability money from the US, it's sick that they would rather have deformed kids so they can get money.

    I do think it is a shame that the kids have been taken away and put into an alien environment – but in the long run, I think if you can save kids from this abuse – emotional and physical then it will be well worth it.

    Will be very interesting to see what happens...

    April 23, 2008 at 3:12 am |
  13. Sara

    Carolyn's book is memoir, Autobiography if you will. It is a recounting of the life she lived, and the decisions she made. Life experience is evidence that can and should be used in forming opinions - and the more varied that life experience, the more the process of forming opinions involves testing the experience against various norms, and indeed strengthening the opinions offered.

    Carolyn obviously came to see her life in FLDS society as dangerous and unacceptable for herself and her children and she acted so as to protect herself and her children. She had life experiences that forged her belief that acting was preferable to accepting the perceived danger, and for that she should be profoundly respected. I don't see how anyone can discount her action and experience - in the above extract from her book, she tells us why she could not depend on normal law enforcement to protect and serve her - is there evidence that contradicts this? She tells us that a kaffe-klutch of women felt coming together to exchange stories was dangerous. On what basis do you disbelieve that sensibility?

    In the past weeks, I pulled off the bookshelf James Reston's book on Jim Jones, "Our Father who Art in Hell" - and re-read parts of his study of the People's Temple, their theology, their experience as a closed community of Jonestown in the Jungle, the insight Reston gained by interviewing survivors and others who had opportunities to observe closely, and obviously those who excaped orders to drink the Kool-aid. Highly recommend - the power dynamics of such closed communities are so similar, even if the precise beliefs are different.

    The common problem is extreme Authoritarianism, Authoritarianism that is dependent on manipulating people to act against their self-interest, and vest all in the dictates and whims of an all powerful leader.

    April 23, 2008 at 2:04 am |
  14. Darryl

    cj, congratulations on you're manipulation's of these blog's.
    you said you were on cnn, but you did not say in you're blog
    if you were a member of flds, if you are, it sure explains you're
    opinion on this matter.

    Carolin, after reading these blog's, I have to read you're book,
    you go girl, don't ever let anybody put you down.

    April 23, 2008 at 12:33 am |
  15. Liz

    Why does the fact that someone had a falling out with a sect make them unreliable? Carolyn is no more unreliable and biased that someone who is a believing member of the sect. Both are biased. Whether they are reliable or not has to do with their character – not with wether they agree or disagree with the FLDS. Dietrich Bonhoeffer disagreed with the Nazis and was part of a plot to kill HItler. Does that make his thoughts about Nazi Germany unreliable? Nelson Mandela disagreed with the South African apartheid regime and spent time in prison for his beliefs. Does that make his thoughts about South African apartheid unreliable? The founding fathers who fought the British goverment and establish the US had a falling out with the government of George III. Were they also unreliable? Since when is someone who decides to speak out about a personal experience of injustice automaitcally unreliable? That is frighteningly faulty logic.

    April 22, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  16. JN

    CJ in CA–you know, there is such a thing as logic, and it would be nice if you became acquainted with it.

    I am not aware of anyone who ever claimed that every single priest abused every single child in the Catholic church. So, that analogy is a little thing called a false analogy and a logical fallacy.

    There is also something called a memoir–but there is also something called testimony. If we reject all first person narratives on the basis that they are the person's own limited point of view–sweetie, there's really not a lot left as evidence in any case of spousal and child abuse–apart from sexual abuse.

    Now, in the case of girls whose biological ages can be determined and whose children can be identified by DNA–and whose fathers can be documented by DNA–we can, in fact, prove abuse. And, since we can, in fact, prove that there are underaged girls who are pregnant and who have children–and we are rapidly proving that the fathers are not also underaged boys–we do have enough proof to be making preliminary judgments. And, preliminary judgments are what are used to remove children from what are probably abusive homes during the time period that the judicial system determines whether they are in fact abusive homes.

    Remember that the Catholic church uses precisely the arguments that you are using–nothing has been proved, the testimony of children cannot be trusted, memories are faded, we should not "rush to judgment." If we do not remove children from the homes in the FLDS community, those children will rapidly disappear as will their families to the communities in Mexico which are beyond the reach of authorities in the US. Then, nothing will ever be proved.

    Are you proposing that because we do not have absolute proof (which, by the way, is never really available), that though we do have a lot of testimony from those who have left the community and much of that testimony is consistent and though we have tangible proof in the persons of underaged girls who are pregnant or mother and we also have tangible proof in the form of church records that document their marriages, that we should all be non-judgmental, leave the children in the homes, and do nothing more?

    Texas waited a good long time to gather evidence–this is not a new thing. They changed their laws to be consistent with the rest of the nation so that they would no longer be a haven for paedophiles, they carefully got informants, they waited until they had a tangible enough complaint to go before a judge, and then they properly utilized the legal system to go in and take the children. This was not a knee-jerk thing. This was carefully planned and carefully executed and there was no Waco.

    If this kind of systematic waiting until you have an excuse to go into the community doesn't work for you, what would? What exactly is it that you do want before anyone removes children from the homes? How high a standard of proof are you proposing? Are you happy with the idea that systematic abuse by males who do a very good job of forming a community which will help them hide that abuse is permissible under the standards that you are apparently proposing?

    April 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  17. Annie Kate


    Thank you for sharing your story. I can't even begin to imagine how much courage it took for you to escape especially with your children. I just bought your book and plan to read it this week and learn more about your experiences in the FLDS. You have been a great contributor to the reporting of this case.

    I at first thought it was a little extreme to take all the children and not just the ones in danger but in reading how secretive and evasive the community is I don't see any other choice for CPS but to take all the children until a detailed investigation can reveal exactly who is in danger and what abuses exist. Its better in an abuse case to be safe than sorry.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 22, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  18. Lily

    By the way, regarding the comparison of the Catholic church, this cult and the catholic church are not in the same leage (at least they haven't been for hundreds of years).

    You are talking about an organiztion in which people are isolated, no contact with the outside world, where there is actual defacto control of territory (e.g. like the writer of this article says, there are towns in Utah where every single person in that town or area belongs to the church). There is complete control of a person's life.

    What the Catholic church did was extremely wrong. Horrible wrong. But the survivors can go out in the eral world and try to piece their lives toguether. People in the FLDS are not talking about just one or two incidents (or 10 or 20). The number is not finite. These people are born into this and will die inside of this group. We are talking about their whole lives (after puberty!). These women have no control over their lives.

    Don't get me wrong. If there are people out there living in "plural' marriages that are adult, they have friends and family and a job and do otherwise normal lives, I'm not one to condem. This is entirely different. This is not about religion or lifestyle. This is about crimes.

    April 22, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  19. Lily

    Some people seem to have a really hard time in this blogg differentiating between leaving people alone with their beliefs and taking action against crimes.

    I can't understand how people are OK letting something like this go on in the United States in 2008. And now testimony of people, similar to what we have heard again and again is called "opinion". The stories they tell are of crimes comminted against them and it's the U.S. goverment's responsibility to stop it from happening again. They tell of how they HAVE TO SCAPE... they can't just leave (kidnapping, anyone?) who are not helped by police (corruption) and who have been sexually assulted (even if the girl "doesn't object" at 15 it's Statutory rape).

    Of a small community in ONE RANCH in Texas, several of the teen kids were pregnant, several of the women had given birth before being 18th and 20 of the "adult" mothers who were there to "take care of the children" had to be reclasified as minors.

    Yes, so the kids not abused would be, in the short term, better off. But you are going to leave them there until they are abused? You are going to leave them there to become abusers themselves? You are going to allow these people to set up an alternate universe where the laws don't apply to them? So they can have several wifes and be their "supreme master". I don't think so. It's high time they did something about this.

    April 22, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  20. Red Texan

    CJ, Ca: Some of us get kind of upset when hear of allegations of extreme abuse against women and children, the likes of which have come out of Eldorado, Utah & Arizona. Just sorry it doesn't bother you more.

    April 22, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  21. Molly

    CJ – Unless you yourself have had a personal experience with the FLDS, I don't think it's appropriate to call Carlon Jessop's opinions biased & unreilable. As you said above, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    April 22, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  22. Sally, Colorado

    I'm amazed that there is even a debate about this – the FLDS is an abusive, oppressive cult – anybody with an ounce of common sense would get this and not try to come running to their defense – my gosh, what does it take to be considered abuse!!!

    How dare anyone try to be so politically correct, or to try to sound like such an intellectual self proclaimed expert when there are young girls that have been raped by 50 year old men (opinion? NO! Fact) and a pregnant woman being drug around in a bull pen (opinion? NO Fact!) and children undergoing water torture (opinion? NO Fact!)

    My heart breaks for Carolyn – she lived through this hell and she IS AN EXPERT and THE MOST CREDIBLE person to talk about this. Her FACTS of the FLDS should spark sadness and rage – not be seen as an open door to start an argument just for the heck of it.

    CAROLYN – – I want to tell you that I'm proud of you. What you did took guts – what you did saved your children. – and continuing to tell your story takes guts as well. There will always be people who want to argue and sound like they know something (but they don't). You are a brave, gutsy woman and I'm proud of you. God will keep leading you – just keep listening to that still small voice.

    April 22, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  23. Karen

    Here's the deal. It doesn't matter WHO you are in this country, there are many laws in place in order to protect children. I know several people who have had their children taken away from them because mandated reporters (teachers, physicians, therapists, etc.) thought there was cause for concern. The children are returned after the state determines whether or not the children are at risk. Since the courts think that it's important for children to be with their families, they are usually returned after parents complete therapy, anger management, etc. There is usually parole, where the family experiences unannounced visits from parole officers, therapists, and whomever the court decrees.
    So here's a large group of people willfully breaking laws and not only that, their culture is one that puts children at risk. I watched some clips of interviews with the mothers. The reporter asked, "So why do you think this happened?" The mothers, bless their hearts, all answered, "We don't know. There was no abuse. We take good care of our children." Their concern for their children was obvious, yet they themselves had probably had no choice in how, when, and to whom they would give themselves sexually, but most importantly, who among the adults would stand up and say "THIS ISN'T RIGHT"?. Apparently none of them. In this case the courts and the law need to step in. There are no winners in this situation. But what the judge is going to want to hear before the parents get the children back is "What I did was wrong. I didn't protect my children from sexual abuse". The judge is going to ask the parent, "So why were you complicit in this?" It's called THE LAW. And thank goodness we have laws. Is this any different than children removed from villages in Thailand and turned into sex workers there? Or runaways in any large city in the US? Who among us is advocating for the children? I haven't checked out the FLDS website but I'd bet a nice meal that there's not personal responsibility being taken by any of the parents for putting their children at risk. Part of me wonders why we have laws against polygamy, gay marriage, high priced call girls getting paid $5,000 for a couple of hours of nookie (apparently she overcame the glass ceiling). And then I put myself in the position of a young teenage girl who is getting "married" to a 50 year old man who already has, apparently, quite a few more "wives" than the one allowed by law. Is this right? No. It's wrong on so many levels. Would you do this to your daughter?
    So to those meek ladies with their beautiful faces, their dresses and hair pulled back and styled in the same way, quietly weeping, I think about you and your children, and I'm sorry for your children. I pray for wisdom for the judge, I pray for your bewildered children, and I pray for you and your families blown apart. I pray you learn better judgment. Your children are where they need to be, in foster care, until you can show that you can protect them. You are strong, I can see it in your faces. You will do the right thing.

    April 22, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  24. eringal27

    I am very proud of you for standing up and speaking out, along with the few others that have left this community. What most don't seem to understand is that this type of life style is not SITUATIONAL like with a few bad apples in the Catholic Church. This is exactly that a LIFE style enforced on women and children by fear, mental manipulation and sexual and physical abuse. In NO way is this right and it blows my mind that communites this large can live this way in our country this day and age. My prayers go out to the women and children who are brainwashed and abused and can only pray that God will bring them out of it in order to show him his TRUE ways which is love, grace and no hypocriscy. God Bless

    April 22, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  25. Tstp


    you obivously dont understand being abused, try it some time then say what is biased or not.... being an abuse victim makes you aware of both sides, because you are trying to understand why this horrendous things happen to child and adults alike. have some compassion

    April 22, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  26. pjt

    Carolyn, Thanks so much for being so strong and for sharing your info with all of us. I wonder if you think the 16 yr old Sarah could be held somewhere against her will, or killed, maybe through blood atonement. Other girls saw her and now she is gone. Do you think the compound and grounds should be searched for signs she was taken away or killed? What about others? Should the police being looking for that?

    By the way, how many of you reading this are wondering what kind of fathers would leave the state rather than be identified of the children taken from them? What chicken-**its! Running means guilt.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:48 pm |
  27. Cathy

    No matter how one views it, the taking of the children is a tragedy the state will never correct. One begins to wonder which infliction of abuse is worse, being in the sect or being suddenly removed without warning or understanding as a child!
    That is the history of most state run programs. I am dismayed the Judge has not moved with more sensitivity to these children and their mental growth and allows them to be herded like cattle, displayed, exposed, prodded. If they were NOT in the sect, would any of us allow the common child to be treated as these are being treated?
    A cold day in .................we would. But we let them because they do not fit into our perceptions of American Children.
    No child should be abused. For any reason. Even if the state itself participates in that abuse.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  28. Eric, WA.

    cj ...... I do not believe there has been a rush to judgement. If you have seen the interviews with the women of the FLDS, it is clear that these women are programed. They divert simple questions with scripted responces. The court has made the decision to have DNA test, due to minors with babies, and change of answers. It is apparent at this point, with "Facts", that the children have moved to foster homes and not returned to the cult.

    I think the DNA will be the "Smoking Gun" and the tip of the ice burg of what goes on behind the gates.

    i understand until proven guilty, not to judge. At this point though, you can not ignore what you can see and hear on TV, nor can the Judge who does NOT base actions on assumptions.

    Jones Town ring a bell? Waco? Heavens Gate?

    April 22, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  29. AS

    CJ, CA, its amazing that you are the only one trying to defend the FLDS, it makes me wonder if you are one of them.... I am chocked that this country have allowed this behavior for so long. I can't wait to see what you have to say when DNA comes back and we can really see how young the girls are (Mothers)..... then I would love to see your comments to excuse that behavior....

    Carolyn, I also want to thank you for writing this book and share this horrow of a life with us, we would never have known if women like you didn't have the courage to tell the story, you are helping all the innocent victims that can't defend themselves. Its obviously a bunch of insane old men excusing their sick behaviors by hiding behind a religion....the same behavior we are "so against" in the arab and african worlds...Women's rights, human rights and yet again same behavior is happening right in our backyards...how sickening is that.

    I have shared this story with my teen daughter to educate her and we have watched the interviews that has been on several morning news. Amazing watching the Men of FDLS acting like they don't know its against the law to engage with underage girls...unbelievable, its like they think we are all fools...

    April 22, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  30. tana

    "Faith and Betrayal" by Sally Denton published 2005 chronicles her great-great grandma's, Jean Rio's, entrance into the Mormon Church and her escape decades later. The story is taken from extensive diaries kept by the author's G.G.GMother, whose piano now sits in the Mormon Museum in Salt Lake City.
    I read this book just a week before the Texas story emerged. Recent vinyettes being told by those who have left this church sect are perfect mirrors of this biographical book set in the 1850's onward. There are explanations of "blood atonement" and information on the Mormon church I have never before found in print.
    Since I work voluntarily with mothers who are "in the system" and losing their children, I have some understanding and empathy in this area. I encourage those who are interested enough to read what is going on in the Texas compound, to go further and do research on the subjects this story touches. Thanks for letting me speak. Tana

    April 22, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  31. sandra wachtel

    I have no sympathy for women who willingly joined that FLDS group and willingly stayed and willlingly allowed their young daughters to be sexually molested. My heart and prayers go out to the innocent baby girls born into such slavery.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  32. cks

    The young girls are not forced into marriage but into slavery.
    The children are given to older men and rewards or for favours.
    Let's call it what it is.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  33. LB

    I hope that all involved in this case will remember we are talking about the potential abuse of children. The law is written so that child protective agencies are required to investigate if a child appears to be abused or neglected OR may be in danger of being abused or neglected. I suspect that any of the workers dealing with this case would gladly pack all 437 children up and return them to their homes; however, the law requires an investigation and the evidence to rule the abuse/neglect in or out. We all need to remember that this case is NOT about the FLDS Religion/Church, but about the potential abuse/neglect of children!! Religion is not the issue!!! And it should not be!!! May the "Force" be with the workers handling this case and the families that are awaiting the results of the investigation!!!

    April 22, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  34. Melinda

    I wasn't speaking for you, CJ. I was stating that the difference between the Catholic situation and the FLDS situation. I did not mean to infer the Pope ok'd any of the abuse nor even knew about it. Warren Jeffs is the FDLS's spiritual leader as the Pope is to the Catholics, I was saying what IF the Pope did the things that Warren Jeffs has done(including being convicted of) we'd all have a huge problem with it.

    I agree with you when you say that we can not assume that all FLDS members experienced the same thing as Carolyn, Flora, Kathy Jo and many other woman who have relayed their experiences. I do not believe that all the children are being abused, however, I think based on what is knows we can see that some are being abused.

    My point is that I don't see any reason why Carolyn or any other person in the currently in the FLDS or any ex member should not be allowed to talk about their story on CNN. By having on Carolyn or the mothers of the children in custody on does not mean CNN is taking a position on it.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  35. LJ

    Um CJ, how about the Catholic Church doesn't teach a doctrine of oppression and abuse, but clearly the FLDS does. These are not just about the acts of a "few" people but the oppressive doctrine that Warren taught and is followed without question by members of FLDS. How about that? I'm sure those apart of Waco would have wished they could have just waited on the facts to come out, not really.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  36. xtina, chicago IL

    why didn't they go after the MEN of this compound and remove THEM. why not leave the children and women together for now? they'll survive without the men until the men are brought to justice or exonerated.

    April 22, 2008 at 7:55 pm |
  37. HL,CA

    CJ, I do not think there is an assumption that "EVERY PERSON in the FLDS is involved in child abuse". That is the reason for the ongoing investigation.

    April 22, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  38. TC

    I don't really care about their religion, or any as a matter of fact. But I get that when people leave a group for whatever reason they typically have very strong feelings about it. That doesn't mean to me that the whole group is bad or that everyone had the same experiences. Seems to me alot of those women seem happy to be there but I guess alot of you would say they're brainwashed. You're raising your kids to believe the things you believe. Does that mean you're brainwashing them?

    I think the scary thing is so many people are looking at the FLDS and thinking that they are so wrong and backwards and stupid that that justifies anything the government wants to do. SInce when do we dispense justice based on popularity? But I guess the thought of teenage mothers is just so horrendous that justifies the military style raid- oh wait, how many teenage mothers are there in this country? Why don't we arrest all the parents of teen mothers for letting

    If there are abuses, then arrest the abusers. It's wrong to wholesale round up people because we don't like the way they live. Who's next? If the state can do this to them, they can do it to you. At least think about that before you cheer on the state.

    April 22, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  39. Nancy

    We need to be extremely careful that we, as freedom-loving U.S. citizens, who detested everything Nazis did to those who were not of the same ideological persuasion as they, do not turn around and do the same thing to other ideologies in our own country.

    April 22, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  40. Nancy

    Anderson Cooper is consistently against every "cult" or New Religious Movement" that he has ever covered. Why is this?

    April 22, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  41. CJ,CA

    Melinda – Please do not put words in my mouth (or blog). I did not say the Pope ok'd child abuse or made laws to encourage child abuse. The similarity between the two is that there are cases of child abuse in both – but we cannot make sweeping accusations about all the members of any group or religion based on a relatively small sampling. We cannot accuse all Muslims of being terrorists, for example.

    I did not say anything specifically referring to the Catholic abuse survivors on CNN last week so, again, you do not speak for me on that note either. Referring to Catholic abuse survivors, in general, as a group, I said, "they may have a bad opinion of their church based on their experiences" and "their stories are real and horrible..."

    In this particular case when someone writes a memoir in the first person – it is their opinion! This is not an independent, investigative report written in the third person by someone without personal feelings about the subject. It should be presented as what it is.

    You are certainly entitled to give your opinion on the blog, but please do not take it upon yourself to give MY opinion on the blog. I can speak for myself – thanks. You and Erika need to calm down for starters, then try to look at things objectively.

    April 22, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  42. Jolene

    Thanks for sharing a piece of your book. It's fascinating and shocking at the same time. I agree with you regarding the color "red". A sunset would not be a sunset without this color so why would one be allowed to see red in a sunset and yet not be allowed to wear the color. Unbelieveable. I'm glad you are free from all of that now. I've wanted to get your book, reading this excerpt has now enticed me to get it sooner.

    Thanks for blogging!

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 22, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  43. Melinda

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I appreciate knowing what when on and what is still going on.

    I believe it's important for people to speak out against this kind of thing and it takes courage especially when people seem to be against what you are saying. I hope that doesn't detour you from continuing to speak up.

    CJ-There are many people speaking about their experience with the FLDS and their stories are very similar. I don't doubt them at all but I do agree that not all people probably have the same experience in the FLDS, however, there is a big difference between the Catholic issue and this one. The Pope did not ok abuse by priests nor did he ask them to do it. He also didn't make laws that made it okay for priests to abuse people or tell woman they had to leave their jobs and wear only certain kinds of clothes. He also doesn't kick out huge number of men from the Catholic church because there were too many to compete with (The hundreds of "Losts Boys" will tell you they were).

    I don't believe CNN is doing anything wrong with having people on to tell their story, which were facts as happened to them. They had on the victims of the abuse by priests the other night and I wouldn't call their stories opinions. I think it's good to hear all sides of this story and then make up our minds. But I don't think we should close our minds to people's experiences on either side.

    April 22, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  44. Erika, portsmouth va

    can I add one more thing- they are following a racist white man who sleeps with 15 year old girls...how holy

    April 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  45. Erika, portsmouth va

    CJ- This woman's book gives FACTUAL information of what she went through. I guess you probably think it's her opinion that these women were treated like animals–dogs who obey their master. But I think it's fact that any man that treats anyone the way they were treated, the fear they lived in that their husband may be in a "bad mood", is a coward and hiding behind his CULT. The officer put his pregnant wife in a freakin BULL PEN, maybe you missed that part......

    April 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm |
  46. Brian Weber

    I am concerned like every other American about the fate of these children and their transition into mainstream USA ... Something dawned on me as a possable idea.. Seeing these kids of all ages are from a very differant lifestyle , Perhaps the powers to be should consider asking our Amish & Menonite citizens to foster these kids until they can find moderate homes for them .It may be a answer and a safe family atmosphere they can stay ..

    April 22, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  47. Laurie

    Carolyn, Thank you for telling your story. Please continue to do so to keep a light brightly shining on the atrocities that are occuring to women and children in the FLDS community. It's criminal that in this day and age there are men perpetrating their form of enslavement on women and it's being allowed to continue by our government. It is my absolute hope that all these men whoever and wherever they are will be brought to justice and spend the rest of their natural lives behind bars where what they've done to women and children will be done to them.

    April 22, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  48. xtina, chicago IL

    carolyn, I don't dispute your writings of the experiences you've had, but do you agree that it's not the role of government and it's not in the power of government to round up numbers of children based on a small number of proven cases of abuse?

    April 22, 2008 at 2:09 pm |
  49. tammi vancouver bc canada

    Hi Carolyn, just read your book
    over the weekend i couldnt put it down.
    i am so happy u and your kids got out.
    have you heard from your daughter betty?
    keep telling your story girl !all the best to you
    you deserve it

    April 22, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  50. CJ,CA

    I feel that this rush to judgment against the FLDS is wrong. Nothing has been proven yet. Why can't we wait and see what happens before we make assumptions about hundreds of people based solely on the opinions of a few people. Obviously Carolyn had disagreements with them and left the sect. Therefore, her opinions are biased and unreliable.

    When the Pope visited the US last week, he met with victims of child abuse in the Catholic Church. Those victims are hurt and angry. They may have a bad opinion about their religion based on their experience and they may have left the church.

    Their cases are real, and horrible, but that does not mean that EVERY person that has ever been part of the Catholic Church was a victim of child abuse. It does not mean that EVERY priest is a pedophile. By the same token, we should not assume that EVERY PERSON in the FLDS is involved in child abuse either.

    Can't we just wait for the facts to come out before we condemn these people? And, as a news organization, shouldn't CNN stick to the facts instead of reporting someone's opinion as fact?

    April 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm |
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