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Polygamy, that's pretty big of me.
August 29, 2006 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Most wanted polygamist captured. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints^ split from the mainstream Mormon church when the latter banned polygamy early last century. Their leader has been on the FBI top ten most wanted list for alleged sexual conduct with a minor, and has been captured outside of Sin City. On Meta previously the whole thing never the less makes for some interesting reading.
posted by bystander (57 comments total)

 
Here's a documentary on the Colorado City/Hildale situation that Jeffs ran (site requires registration, but one can bluff); here's a blog on which current and former cultists comment, and here's a trailer for a film, "Banking on heaven," about the cult.
posted by goofyfoot at 6:02 PM on August 29, 2006


If they'd just stick to marrying adults, they'd probably have more of a leg to stand on in fighting for polygamist rights.
posted by nightchrome at 6:05 PM on August 29, 2006


[I'm really tired of the caret-as-wikipedia-link thing...] Other than that, interesting. I wonder what the population of practicing Mormon polygamists who do stick to adults is?
posted by hattifattener at 7:01 PM on August 29, 2006


FBI's Most Wanted????????????????????????

Stop picking up speeders and catch some real criminals.
posted by caddis at 7:03 PM on August 29, 2006


Apparently what happens in Utah... stays in Vegas.
posted by clevershark at 7:12 PM on August 29, 2006


Santorum warned you guys about Mormons.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:16 PM on August 29, 2006


Get a brain Mormans!
posted by jimmythefish at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2006


I just saw this on CNN earlier. Larry King, what a surprise. They had an interview with the victim. Dim as a box of rocks this girl. Not that she doesn't deserve to be protected from criminals, I'm just saying she seemed quite dim.

But yeah, seriously how is this guy a "most wanted"? If you ask me it's political posturing based on the 'protecting marriage' theme. There must be hundreds of people guilty of murder running around this country, but this guy was rich white and culturally similar to the Christian fundies of bush's base.

--

Finally, I honestly don't see why polygamy is so horrible. Obviously there are practical reasons for discouraging it, and you could say it goes against modern feminist thinking, but if people are already in some crazy religion that supports it, why not?

I especially don't see why Mormons can have anything against it, given that it was basically the founding principle of their religion.
posted by delmoi at 7:30 PM on August 29, 2006


If they'd just stick to marrying adults, they'd probably have more of a leg to stand on in fighting for polygamist rights.

Most states to not require majority for (monogamous) marriage, but in many states the laws are pretty convoluted. You can marry a teenage girl, but not sleep with her, for example. I saw a thing on TV once about a guy being arrested for sleeping with his wife, so it's not just a theoretical issue.

Anyway, what I thought was interesting was the fact that the guy basically got caught for acting super nervous, and for driving around with dealer plates that "looked funny". I think it would be funny if the it turned out the plates were legit and that this all happened because they were nervous.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 PM on August 29, 2006


Gee, maybe it had something to due with that whole "sex with minors" thing.
posted by bob sarabia at 7:36 PM on August 29, 2006


something to due do
posted by bob sarabia at 7:37 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Orthodox Mormons are not allowed to masturbate or drink caffeinated beverages. Just two of my favorite things
posted by longsleeves at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2006


And they have special underwear
posted by Gungho at 8:01 PM on August 29, 2006


Apparently I heard the rule regarding drinks is that they are not allowed to drink any hot beverage.
posted by clevershark at 8:04 PM on August 29, 2006


[undoes the caret silliness: v]

He's on the 10 most wanted list for basically being a nutjob with 12,000 followers. It wouldn't take much for the right nutjob like this to lead people in a small revolt. (like Hezbollah if in the U.S.).
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:09 PM on August 29, 2006


Finally, I honestly don't see why polygamy is so horrible.

Less girls for everyone else. How would you like it if the rich guys in your town had 20-30 wives while you and your buddies couldnt find anyone to date? Who would date you if they knew they could a be a wealthy sub-wife of some rich guy if they played their cards right.

Its also important to note that most religious polygamists are very much into minors/child brides. They deal with children because they treat women like property and theyre easier to 'own' when theyre 12 and the parents approve of the 'sale.'
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:09 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


but if people are already in some crazy religion that supports it, why not?

Children dont get to pick what religion they are part of.
Editor's note: The Salt Lake Tribune is using the pseudonym "Mary" in this story because the newspaper generally does not identify alleged sexual assault victims. As Mary tells the story of how she became a plural wife at age 16, the shock of it all is still fresh.

On March 27, 2002, her father announced she would be married the next day. To whom? Mary asked. Her father told her it was "a Barlow boy" but could not recall his first name.

"I was scared. I thought, 'Whatever,' I mean, I just kind of didn't understand because my father didn't even know who he was," Mary said.

She said her mother later supplied the man's full name: Randolph Barlow, then 28 - a man she had never talked to or even met.
Fuck this guy. Life in prison please. Then he'll know what its like to be a purchasable piece of meat.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:14 PM on August 29, 2006


Less girls for everyone else. How would you like it if the rich guys in your town had 20-30 wives while you and your buddies couldnt find anyone to date? Who would date you if they knew they could a be a wealthy sub-wife of some rich guy if they played their cards right.

Well, there would probably be a lot of adultery. But I said there were practical, but not moral reasons to oppose it. If It were only done rarely I don't think it would be a big problem.

I mean isn't that an argument against gay marrage as well?
posted by delmoi at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2006


Fuck this guy. Life in prison please. Then he'll know what its like to be a purchasable piece of meat.

LOL Anal rape.
posted by delmoi at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2006


Anyway, just to clarify, I don't think what this guy did was OK, (although I don't think it was really worthy of the FBI's most wanted). As a separate issue, I don't think consensual polygamy between adults is a big deal.
posted by delmoi at 8:19 PM on August 29, 2006


I mean isn't that an argument against gay marrage as well?
posted by delmoi at 11:17 PM EST on August 29 [+] [!]


Ironically enough, much of the criticism against legalizing gay marriage was that it would pave the way for legalizing polygamy, pedophilia, etc.

In any case there was also a concern that this guy was hoarding weapons, and he spoke of the apocalypse in very present day, David Koresh type terms. They were worried that he was going to trigger mass suicides etc. ABC News did a few shows about this group.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2006


No, I dont think this is the same as gay marriage. Think of this as economics for a moment. In monogamy there's only one purchase. There's no real way to game the system without divorce. This allows those with influence, positions of power, wealth, leaders, etc to only get one partner. Their ability to commodize women like the polygamists do is cut short. In a system where there's no limit to purchases you are now turning the tradionally poorer sex into a purchasable object.

Gay marriage is monogomous so the commodization problem doesnt happen.

A monogomous system is just more difficult to abuse. It lessens the devaluation of humans because you cant collect more than one
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:34 PM on August 29, 2006


I used to think "Hey, between adults, who cares?" Then one night I was teasing my, saying, "Hey! Let's get married to someone!" and started looking up plural marriage info online just to bug her.

YIKES. From what I could find it looks like just another way to abuse women and children. It isn't adults making lifestyle decisions. Girls are married off to the old man's buddies, who in turn marry their daughters off to other old men. The women (and children) involved often have no education or the chance to make real choices. The whole thing left me feeling a bit sick.
posted by cccorlew at 8:49 PM on August 29, 2006


On preview.. that's "teasing my wife"
posted by cccorlew at 8:49 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it is, I'm simply saying opening the door for polygamy, further out of the norm social arrangements, was one of the reasons people were against gay marriage.

And last I checked, people with power could cheat on their wives. And I don't think the polygamists actually sell their daughters for money or property. Power comes from large families, and women are seen as baby factories.

Also, monogamy places each sex on equal footing. Polygamy requires one to share the other, but not vice versa.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2006


No, I don't think this is the same as gay marriage. Think of this as economics for a moment. In monogamy there's only one purchase. There's no real way to game the system without divorce.

What does that have to do with morality? The idea of restricting people's personal choices for economic reasons strikes me as wrong. I mean why not ban out of wedlock children, or engage in eugenics? Also these sorts of arguments almost always come as post-facto justification for someone's intrinsic disgust at a certain practice, rather then sound analysis.

You can theorize all day about the potential effect of allowing polygamy, but without detailed research all you have is theorization. Without any sort of detailed study it's really just a bunch of noise.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 PM on August 29, 2006


cccorlew: That's basically how it works in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc, even when most people are in monogamous relationships.
posted by delmoi at 8:58 PM on August 29, 2006


Study of what? The morality of it? The morality of ploygamy is that the guy gets to have sex with many women, but each woman only gets to have sex with him. Morally speaking, that's unfair. And it assumes that some women will choose this lifestyle because it affords them greater "security" which = room and board, other women to help raise the kids.

Polygamy basically reduces women to the status of concubines and harem girls.

This whole marriage debate has become weird. Polygamy is banned only to the extent that the state won't recognize more than one marriage. But it is perfectly legal to live with as many people as you want. Why do you need the state to acknowledge everything? If it's a personal choice, everyone already has the freedom to set up whatever personal relationships they want to.

But if you argue that the state's recognition of marriage creates estate, tax, healthcare, and other rights, then the state does have the right to restrict people's choices for economic reasons.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:05 PM on August 29, 2006


These fundamentalist Mormons aren't some quirky cute religion with a swinger lifestyle. They're a freaky mind-dominating cult that sexually imprisons young girls. Their leaders belong in jail.

For an accessible and entertaining history of this radical brand of American religion, read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven.
posted by Nelson at 9:07 PM on August 29, 2006


I don't care if adults choose polygamy and otherwise live as peaceful citizens. But that's not what usually happens. This particular sect is really bad news with many serious criminal activities, most importantly kidnapping, rapes, child molestation (of many, many many girl "brides" -- absolutely warranting "ten most wanted"), but also assaults, weapons violations, fraud, corruption, and more.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:08 PM on August 29, 2006


Polygamy isn't necessarily a creepy forced/child bride situation. People like this ruin polygamy for people who are in loving polygamous relationships, which is why currently polygamy is illegal.

Pastabagel what your talking about specifically is polygyny, where a man is married to multiple females. With plenty of non-culty, non-religously inspired polygamists it goes both ways, polygyny and polyandry (females married/partnered with multiple males).
posted by Suparnova at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2006


Man, some of you have no clue about the cult that's under discussion here. They have a branch in BC's south-east corner, named "Bountiful."

The place is a living hell for the females. We've been hearing more about the abuse. There's the young girls things, yes, but even more alarming is how deeply the cult attempts to brainwash its youth. It is a seriously creepy community. It's alarming that we are allowing it to continue: I think it's time we came up with some ground rules as to what constitutes a valid alternative community/society.

Polygamy between consenting adults is a step in developing greater freedoms, but only if we define it with care. Can a child programmed from birth to be a submissive hen for a male-dominated society be considered capable of consent? At what age?

I don't have answers, but I know the "Bountiful" life is proving to be a nightmare for a female who aspires to something more than slavery.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 PM on August 29, 2006


Stop picking up speeders and catch some real criminals.

Like maybe fellow Top 10 fugitive Usama bin Laden, or maybe the anthrax dude.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:04 PM on August 29, 2006


The arguments against legalizing polygamy are very simple and practical. Polygamy assumes the existence and probable abuse of social welfare to support the practice. It also complicates inheritance and benefits. It complicates divorce and custody. It also leads to an excess of unmarried males, gender being relatively equal in the natural world. It also has nothing to do with gay marriage, other than both being illegal, because gay marriage is monogamy. The idea behind gay marriage is demanding an equal right, not a special right. A separate reason to oppose polygamy is the traditional religious interpretation of it.
posted by Brian B. at 10:13 PM on August 29, 2006


Don't forget this classic LDS-for-the-restivus reference. (BG and FG colors are random. Just refresh till you get a nice readable combo)
posted by BeerFilter at 10:29 PM on August 29, 2006


Polygamy is not necessarily tons of women married to one rich man, and only because he has good health care. Thats what end up being publicized, the 40 year olds using religion to justify marrying/exploiting young girls.

There is polygamy that involves adults, sometimes multiple males, sometimes multiple females, all of whom agree to their situation. Things do get rather complicated coming to inheritance and such, and jealousy will be jealousy, but its not impossible and it won't upset the balance of all life. Polygamists only represent a tiny portion of our culture and polygamy (which is being practiced, polygamous marriage legal or not) being legalized will only mean the people already practicing polygamy will be able to formalize their relationship.

That said I don't believe polygamy will be able to be legalized. It is simply to hard to write a law that will legalize it without opening opportunities for abuse, as seen in communities such as this.
posted by Suparnova at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2006


This isn't about polygamy. It's about child abuse and enslavement.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 PM on August 29, 2006


It also isn't solely about women. Whenever any group tries to utterly dominate other people, everyone suffers.
posted by fshgrl at 11:24 PM on August 29, 2006


The boys don't get off easy either. To keep all the young girls for the old pervs, boys as young as 13 are ripped from their families and dumped in another town--and then they become everyone's problem, especially since they have almost no education and no resources. I don't care if consenting adults want to be polygamous, but when they're abusing this many kids and creating this many problems for everyone else, they need to be stopped. Really you could nail them on massive institutionalized child abuse alone and leave polygamy out of it entirely. Though I believe there is also tax fraud and welfare fraud that has attracted Unca' Sam's attention.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 PM on August 29, 2006


Brian B: Polygamy assumes the existence and probable abuse of social welfare to support the practice.

Huh?

five fresh fish: This isn't about polygamy. It's about child abuse and enslavement.

That needed to be repeated.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:37 AM on August 30, 2006


Polygamy assumes the existence and probable abuse of social welfare to support the practice.

One of the problems with this particular situation is that the average fundie guy who has the ton of wives isn't supporting them all with some great job. Usually he is only married to one wife for the purposes of the federal government and then all the other wives who live with him in his house andnominally under his control (in these situation, fundamentalist LDS, I'm not talking to poly relationships generally) are receiving welfare as single mothers with young children. Despite the other laws that are often broken in these situations (underage marriage/sex, educating children, using government/state resources to build compounds, etc) often what they get these people for is welfare fraud.

It's a nice idea that the Mormons take care of their own -- and there is a lot of this going on in more traditional Mormon society -- but these groups are notorious for abusing the state and federal welfare systems at the same time as they claim to live outside of the system.
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 AM on August 30, 2006


Finally, I honestly don't see why polygamy is so horrible.

Well, having multiple sex partners without cheating sounds great, but putting up with the exponential amount of nagging from multiple wives would be a drawback.

I suppose if you really wanted to go for the piss-off-the-authorities gold, you could have a few wives and a few husbands.
posted by jonmc at 7:02 AM on August 30, 2006


Well, then, if it is about abusing welfare are we going to start forcing Hasidic Jews to use birth control?

Anyway, it's too bad they make polygamy = child abuse because, while I'm not interested, polygamy *can* benefit women, knee-jerk assumptions aside.
posted by dame at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2006


This isn't about polygamy. It's about child abuse and enslavement.

Yes.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:10 AM on August 30, 2006


Excluding the Jeffs Mormons from the equation, the question of why polygamy was originally outlawed probably comes down to our cultural basis in puritanism. Christians were offended by the whole Mormon faith, and seized upon polygamy as a "safe" way to prosecute them. Safe, in that in the Victorian/Edwardian age, they were covering the legs of pianos to stop carnal thoughts...the whole concept of "wild and wacky sex with multiple partners"...well, we couldn't have that, could we?

I would venture a guess that the same core of puritan thinking is what's behind the current prohibition on polygamy...again, excluding the Mormons led by Jeffs and crew.

Also, tax, estate, and social security laws would have to be entirely revisited, were polygamy/polyandry an accepted brand of relationship.

That said, I'm personally believe that any set of people who are of legal age of consent and of sound mind, should be able to write their own social contracts, and the state shouldn't interfere. I really don't care who is in each other's beds at night, and I don't believe the state has a vested interest in that aspect of citizen's life either.

That said, Jeffs and his crew are sick, sick bastards, and for the protection of other citizens, they should be removed from the general population.
posted by dejah420 at 7:57 AM on August 30, 2006


That said, I'm personally believe that any set of people who are of legal age of consent and of sound mind, should be able to write their own social contracts, and the state shouldn't interfere.

Okay, this sounds good, but should 'the state' then be bound to provide equal legal and economic benefits to 'any set of people...[who] write their own social contracts'? What about when those 'social contracts' are costly or otherwise in direct conflict with the interests of the state or others who've freely entered into various kinds of social contracts? This stuff can potentially get really complicated, really quickly.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:18 AM on August 30, 2006


Isn't there some truth the the notion that polygamy (one male/multiple females) has some basis in nature. One male can impregnate multiple females, a number of species (eg deer) have seem to have family units of one male and multiple females and children. Not arguing for it, but I have always felt that generally males are by nature polygamous and females are by nature generally monogamous.
posted by sfts2 at 8:23 AM on August 30, 2006


sfts2: actually, i think i've seen research that suggests that, for humans at least, serial monogamy is the more natural condition.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 AM on August 30, 2006


I'm wondering if that is driven more from cultural versus biological factors.
posted by sfts2 at 9:08 AM on August 30, 2006


who knows? nature doesn't really seem to prefer any particular reproductive strategies--hell, if anything, the most effective reproductive strategies seem to be assexual, judging by how rapidly viruses adapt and proliferate.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2006


the only way someone couldn't understand the necessity of having this man put on the fbi's 10 most wanted, is if they haven't read anything about what went on under his power. sometimes killing someone isn't the worst thing you can do to them. this guy was responsible for totally destroying peoples basic and fundamental freedoms. not to mention the rape of hundreds if not thousands of children. call me crazy, but a culture in which 70 year old guys fucking 13 year old girls is the norm, is worthy of the 10 most wanted.
posted by andywolf at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2006


if anything, the most effective reproductive strategies seem to be assexual, judging by how rapidly viruses adapt and proliferate.

Interestingly, organism-wise reproduction is of course much more efficient with simple asexual organisms, but individual genes reproduce much faster in sexual organisms.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2006


jessamyn: One of the problems with this particular situation is that the average fundie guy who has the ton of wives isn't supporting them all with some great job. Usually he is only married to one wife for the purposes of the federal government and then all the other wives [...] are receiving welfare as single mothers with young children.

What you've described is a broken welfare system, not an inherent problem with polygamy.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2006


What you've described is a broken welfare system, not an inherent problem with polygamy.

Polygamy is an inherent welfare situation by the numbers, increasing the demand for it exponentially. The other problem with arguments for polygamy is that supporters care more about the government sanctioning an inherently unequal relationship, than caring if the offspring are able to be fed or not.
posted by Brian B. at 2:27 PM on August 30, 2006


"Able to be fed" infants are the lucky ones
posted by longsleeves at 8:46 PM on August 30, 2006


The term 'polygamy' is misleading in the FPP. Jeffs isn't in the top ten because he engaged in polygamy. He has power within the cult to choose underage girls to be married - without her or her parents' consent - to himself or to someone he deems appropriate. He also has the power to reassign women from one man to another, and to appropriate a man's real property. See United Effort Plan. See also.

Right now he is accused only of arranging one marriage between a 16-year-old and a 28-year-old ( Press release from the Utah attorney general). That this put him in the top ten list suggests that the FBI has a few other concerns, some of which are detailed in the links I and others gave above. Some concerns may have to do with the cult's Texas compound . See also.

The CBC made a documentary about the Bountiful outpost of the sect.

Lastly, here's a google result on Flora Jessop.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:46 PM on August 30, 2006


If you know how to get benefits it's good
posted by longsleeves at 8:49 PM on August 30, 2006


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