Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mormon Polygamy: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Earlier this evening I met Flora Jessop. Jessop is the author of The Church of Lies about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Those are one of the polygamous sects that exist along the Utah-Arizona border. She was born into this polygamous sect and escaped when she was a teenager. Since then she has dedicated herself to fighting this cult and trying to help others, like her, escape from it. If you remember the raids in Texas on a Mormon sect compound recently, her cousin Merril runs that branch of the church. But in this sect it is hard not to have lots of cousins. She had 27 siblings in her family, three mothers and one father.

I went and read a few sites on Flora and what became apparent was the FLDS sect has spent a lot of time trying to smear her. There are sites all over the place purporting to tell the truth about her. I read some of them and noticed how they seemed to neglect to mention a conflict of interest. These “loving relatives” who had to expose the “lies” of Jessup were all still faithful members of the cult in question. So nothing they said is surprising. This is how cults work.

There were a few things that Jessup said which I found interesting. It is also clear that there are some areas where we differ significantly. She has bought into the entire agenda of the “abuse industry.” In her case I can understand it, but that doesn’t mean she is right on everything. There certainly were comments she made where red warning flags were flying in my head. But I won’t go into those disagreements here. Instead I prefer to concentrate on two areas that I found significant.

Flora discussed the problems that she faced in rescuing young girls from the polygamous communities. And it was clear that much of the time the opposition was coming from allegedly non-polygamous Mormons associated with the Salt Lake Church. Over the last couple of decades Flora has dealt with around 1,000 people involved with the polygamous sects. This means she has spoken with many women who got out of the sects after being married off to one of the old men in the community. (I say “old men” because the church intentionally runs the young men out so they are not competition to the old men who run the sect. It is no coincidence that Flora today has contact with 6 brothers who are out of the sect but all her sisters are still there.)

The differences, doctrinally, between the FLDS and the mainstream Mormons is not large. The fundamentalists still practice polygamy today. Mainstream Mormons have not abandoned their belief in polygamy but have suspended its practice officially. They still teach that the highest echelons of the kingdom are reserved exclusively for polygamists. And the mainstream Mormons will still “seal” numerous women to a man as his wives in the next life.

While Jessop acknowledges that many Mormons have helped her with her efforts, she also says that mainstream LDS members have been her biggest opponents as well. She says that many women, trying to leave the polygamous sects, have gone to LDS churches for help. Jessop says that in every case she knows about, the local Mormon bishop has told the women to return to the polygamous community and obey their husband. Mormons also believe that the practice of polygamy will be restored at some time in the future.

Even when the LDS sect gave up the practice, it did so in a very round about way. The then church president claimed that God gave him a revelation of what would happen if the practice weren’t abandoned. But this revelation was not so much a change in doctrine as a tactical decision by the Almighty. For decades, the church leadership continued to allow polygamy and practiced it. It is said that the first church president to have only one wife was President George Smith in 1945. And the polygamists who make up the FLDS church were only excommunicated in 1935—almost four decades after the church claims it gave up the practice.

While the alleged revision of the polygamy doctrine came in 1889 we find that Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather took his fifth wife in 1895. The LDS church had polygamous outposts in Mexico where Romney’s father, Gov. George Romney was born. The Romney family only returned to the US in 1912. Until 1904 the church did nothing to discourage polygamy. Only then did they start to excommunicate some members. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that they really got serious about the matter.

Certainly the Reed Smoot hearings in Congress had numerous top Mormon officials admitting that they still practiced polygamy: including President Joseph F. Smith and Apostle Francis Lyman, Apostle George Teasdale, Apostle John Taylor, and Apostle M. Cowley. Apostle Brigham Young Jr., continued to perform polygamous marriages after the alleged abandonment of the practice. And one LDS professor says that Apostle John Henry Smith told him: “Don’t you know that the Manifesto [abandoning polygamy] is only a trick to beat the devil at his own game.”

It does not surprise me that Mormons today still hanker for the polygamous practices of old. The alleged revelation that Smith announced, claimed to be good for all times. And key Mormon doctrines regarding becoming gods relied upon it. Brigham Young told the church members:
“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who entering polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessing offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.” [Journal of Discourse, Vol 11, p. 269.]
Young said:
Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire.... Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it.
One of the things I mentioned to Jessop was how I was convinced that Mormon polygamy, for the most part, could not survive without the active help of government. Officially none of the multiple wives are legally married—they are single mothers eligible for all sorts of financial aid from the county, state and federal governments. When you consider that the median age in polygamous Mormon communities is around 12 or 13, you will understand precisely how many millions of dollars politicians are willing to give the sect “for the sake of the children.” Jessop agreed and said: "You can't support three kids these days by yourself, let alone 28." She confirmed that millions in taxpayer funds were flowing in to polygamous communities keeping them alive.

Jessop says that these communities have individuals whose job is to write up grant proposals and submit them to various levels of government. So housing rehabilitation grants, highway grants, educational grants, development grants, etc., pour into these communities. With virtually no separation of church and state in these communities, the church uses the millions showered on the local governments, for its own purposes. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said that the polygamists “proved themselves the master of grant applications.”

Millions of dollars per year flow into the polygamous sects in the form of welfare, benefits and government grants. For instance, the Colorado City airport, used mainly by the church’s prophet (when he wasn’t in prison) was built with $2.8 million in federal pork.

The moronic authoritarians at Homeland Security gave Colorado City the third largest grant for the state of Arizona, a total of $350,000. If you check out a map and look where Colorado City is you will see that it not ever going to be a target for terrorism and is of zero strategic value to the country. Al Herron, of the Prescott Daily Courier, reported in 2003 that “most of the medical insurance of residents of Colorado City” was provided by the state, costing “about $8 million a year.” As of 2003, half the residents were receiving food stamps worth another $3 million per year for those on the Arizona side of the border alone. In 2002 he said 200 residents were getting “child care assistance” worth $600,000.

Herron says that the state of Utah looked at just one polygamous family from 1989 to 1999 and found that during that period they received $647,000 in benefits. They estimated the total benefits giving to this one family to have exceeded $1 million in all years.

Herron found that the federal government had recently given the community $2 million to pave streets, improve the fire department and upgrade the water system. And tens of millions have come in for the FLDS controlled “public” school system.

More recent data indicates that the taxpayer subsidies for polygamists continue. On January 4, 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Carolyn Jessop, who left her husband Merril, said the sect practiced a doctrine they call “bleeding the beast” which “included applying for ‘every possible type of government assistance that is available.’” Author Stephen Singular, who wrote about the sect, is quoted as saying that Colorado City residents received “eight times the welfare assistance of comparably sized towns in the area.” Some of the benefits outlined were:

• 126 children in two polygamous communities who qualified for “KidsCare”.
• 3,416 who received some form of Medicaid
• In Hildale, another polygamous community, 131 were receiving benefits for newborns and other children’s health benefits covered 324 more children.
• Forty-four percent of Colorado City residents received food stamps, worth $1.5 million between 2006 and 2007.
• The average monthly benefit in Hildale was $829, the average benefit for the rest of the county was $250.

When asked, the sect members say they are taught to be self-sufficient. In fact, one FLDS radio station has preached that message. The host who made these claims was himself a recipient of government benefits and the station was funded with government grants.

Government officials, however, play semantics when it comes to taxpayer funding of polygamy. They will tell the public that there is no “fraud” involved because all the cases “qualify” for the aid. If polygamy increases poverty, and I believe it does, and if polygamy is a voluntary decision made the polygamist, then why should the taxpayers be funding this sect? I have little doubts the people qualify for the benefits they receive—the question is whether they should. Without government assistance, I believe these polygamous communities would collapse under their own dysfunctional lifestyles.

Photos: 1) Merril Jessop, Flora's cousin, with his worshipful wives. 2) FLDS "prophet" Warren Jeffs with his 12-year-old wife, one perhaps 70 wives.

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