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Polygamy is abuse, plain and simple

Linda Johnson

Recently, I finished a book that I think everyone in the United States should read. It is titled “Under the Banner of Heaven” and is authored by journalist, Jon Krakauer, who also wrote “Into Thin Air.”

It is an expose of a form of polygamy practiced by the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter- day Saints (FLDS). This church is an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but should not be confused with the present day Mormon Church. The practice of polygamy was banned by the mainstream LDS church in 1890 when Utah gained statehood.

Krakauer focuses on the polygamous communities of Colorado City-Hildale, located on the Utah-Arizona border. These adjacent communities are controlled by the Prophet Warren Jeffs, who decides the fate of his followers’ lives including arranging marriages of girls as young as 14 to much older, married men.

These girls then become a “spiritual wife,” meaning that their husband already has at least one wife. Girls are often “married” to their uncles, cousins, or stepfathers. Once married, these girls are withdrawn from school. The Prophet controls the schools so there are no independent public officials to enforce the truancy laws. The girls are expected to toil endlessly and to breed annually, while living under the total control of the Prophet, the church elders and their husband.

You may be thinking how does one guy support all these women and children, while I can barely support one family? The answer is that he doesn’t. You and I do. These women and children live off welfare, food stamps and other state and federal programs. The elders of the FLDS church believe that because polygamy is illegal in the United States that they are justified in ripping off the government. The economic cost of this form of polygamy, often called polygabuse, is enormous, given that they reproduce as fast as cancer cells. There are an estimated 30,000 polygamists living in the U.S. Do the math. It is incredible drain on the economy and it is growing exponentially.

You may be thinking, this doesn’t affect me, since it only happens in Arizona and Utah, not Nevada. Think again! According to an article published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in November 2003 by Steve C. Wilson, the Kingston clan, controlled by patriarch Paul Kingston, owns businesses located in Nevada that enjoy major casinos and government agencies as customers.

The Kingston clan has between 800 and 1,200 members. Paul Kingston claims to have 25 wives and 145 children and growing. They own land in Henderson, Spring Valley and Indian Springs. The Kingston clan is reputedly worth in excess of $100 million but in spite of this incredible wealth, the women and children live in marginal poverty in slum properties owned by the clan.

What can you do about polygabuse? First, read Jon Krakauer’s book and recommend it to your friends. Go online and access the Web sites for the Arizona Child Protection Project and the Help the Child Brides organization. Raising awareness of the practice of polygabuse and its implications is the first step to change.

Next, encourage law enforcement to arrest and prosecute the polygabusers. This is not easy since the local officials in these communities are polygamists themselves and are under the control of the patriarch or prophet. In addition to the crime of polygamy, these men are committing incest, statutory rape, child endangerment, and welfare fraud. Both the attorney generals in Utah and Arizona have vowed to prosecute the polygabusers, but so far there have not been any major breakthroughs. In fact, in February of 2004, Arizona child protection officials returned a runaway from Colorado City to her family in spite of her allegations of beatings and rape.

Let our own attorney general, Brian Sandoval, know that you support the prosecution of polygabusers in Nevada.

Lastly, talk to your church officials. This is more than just a legal matter. It is a moral concern and the various religious denominations can bring pressure to bear on this issue if they wish to do so.

I personally am amazed and appalled that this practice it allowed to exist and flourish in the United States of America in 2004. The moral implications, the social and economic costs, make it imperative that polygabuse be stopped its tracks. It is a malignancy and it must be treated immediately before it metastasizes and spreads further.

Linda Johnson is a 29-year resident of Carson City, a wife, mother and a retired attorney.