Last week in a small courtroom in the idyllic valley community of Creston, British Columbia, six fathers, all former adherents to the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Church, implored local Provincial Court Judge Sheard to help them help their children, forty in all.
The courage exhibited by these fathers, mostly younger men in their thirties, born and raised in the faith, and mostly husbands to only one wife cannot be understated, given the engrained distrust and suspicion members of Bountiful have of the world outside the confines of their community.
While clean-scrubbed children, modestly-dressed mothers, and hardworking fathers may lead one to assume the best about Bountiful, the truth is that the community has not escaped the fall-out from the arrest, conviction and incarceration of pedophile Warren Jeffs, who remains the active leader of a large group of Bountiful residents.
Warren Jeff’s ranting revelations and errant edicts from his prison cell in Texas have led to the ex-communication of many of his male followers throughout late 2011 and 2012, including the men who appeared in Court in Creston this week, but there are many others throughout FLDS communities in Colorado, Texas and Utah.
Jeffs has declared that he is the husband of all the wives whose husbands have been forced out; he has forbidden any new marriages, or any sexual relations between spouses while he languishes in prison; and he believes that if his followers become more devout, the apocalypse he has predicted will release him from confinement and bring a fiery death to mankind.
Recently four young boys under the age of nine were “sent away” from Bountiful because their father was an “apostate”. These children are now living with a “mother” in the bushes with a logging crew in the Kootenai’s. The psychological trauma of their dismissal from the community and separation from their siblings is difficult to comprehend.
But there is more. The Bountiful elementary and secondary schools have, for the first time, rejected government funding, in order to establish their own curriculum. Sources reveal that academic rigor will be replaced by videos of Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs has also forbidden any touching or hugging of the children and toys, games, and sport activities have been banned.
Some of the fathers, who have been sequestered from the realities of “child brides” and “lost boys” now understand the evil inherent in child marriages and the polygamy policies of their Church and no longer accept the will of their leaders. Many of them believed their wives and children would leave Bountiful with them, but that is not the case.
The women of Bountiful have led even more cloistered lives than their husbands, and cannot cope with the notion their leaders have led them astray. They have no desire to lose their salvation and have been told that to engage with their departed spouses is to suffer eternal damnation. They are victims of Warren Jeffs, jus as the fathers and children are.
These fathers have not seen their children since their ex-communication, some as long as 12 months ago, as the FLDS Church has forbidden it. But that changed, when the Creston court, on without notice applications, ordered access for the fathers to their children and granted orders that the children not be removed from the East Kootenay area of British Columbia. The FLDS Church’s reputation for clandestinely removing children and spiriting them across the border to communities in the United States is well documented.
Last week’s court hearing is only the beginning of a movement within the growing community of those ex-communicated from the FLDS Church, to reach out to protect their children from the leadership of an increasingly bizarre Warren Jeffs and the men who promulgate his will.
There is a publication ban on the names of the parents and their children. The next scheduled court hearing in these cases is November 7, 2012.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang