The mothers sit on the other side of the screen, their faces hidden. They tell the talk show host what they do to babies born with serious imperfections:
"We smother them, quietly and gently, but we smother them. With a small pillow."
Doctors in Colorado City-Hildale see medical deformities that are extremely rare.
In the 1950s, the birth defect rate in Utah was three times higher than the national average. The birth defect rate in Colorado City-Hildale is so high that a large number of the babies born are seriously physically and mentally deformed.
Â In the polygamous fundamentalist cult in Colorado City, Arizona and the adjoining town of Hildale, Utah, there is no TV.
Every once in a while satellite dishes go up on the roofs, and then the cult leader catches them, and warns everyone of their impending damnation. The satellite dishes come down.
There is no escape for people living in these polygamous cults. Colorado City-Hildale, is part of a polygamous group called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.
They are not Mormons; they are fundamentalists, a group that split off from the Mormon Church, the mainstream LDS Church more than 70 years ago.
My parents knew of this group when I was a child. Everyone in Utah and this area of Arizona has known about this group and others like it. But these communities are often gated, with arms and electric fences. It is dangerous to try to infiltrate or mix in any way.
There is no help for the young girls in these polygamous families. The girls are 14 or 15 and wed to men three or four times as old as they. These girls were born into the life, and for them there is no escape.
They have children of their own by the time they are 15. There is a name for this: child rape. It is also incest, as many of them marry a close blood relative, such as a half-brother, even though he may be many, many years older than she.
Warren Jeffs, current leader of the polygamous clan, is wanted by the FBI, but has fled to a sister polygamous clan in Bountiful, British Columbia, where he remains in hiding.
The law does not recognize these marriages, and even though the cult itself is wealthy, the money does not get funneled down to the women or children, who are all on welfare. There's a name for this: welfare fraud.
Warren Jeffs is in hiding because he knows that even though bigamy is difficult to prosecute, child rape is not. He justifies this behavior under the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, indicating that long ago, the founders of the mainstream LDS church told followers they should be polygamous.
But the mainstream LDS church abandoned polygamy in the 1880s in order for Utah to become a state. This is when the fundamentalist movement essentially got its start, by adhering to polygamy and other early beliefs of Mormonism.
But make no mistake: these FLDS members are not like the polygamists of the earlier LDS church. 150 years ago, Mormons who adhered to polygamy (like my great-grandfather who had six wives and 44 children) were hardworking people from Britain or Scandinavia, who had left their country and their church, in search of a promised land where they would not be persecuted.
The Mormons who settled Utah were mainstream men and women of the 19<sup>th</sup> century.
In contrast, the leaders of the FLDS and other fundamentalist polygamous sects are often deranged, mentally ill, and/or criminals who are forced to live underground because their religious beliefs are against all laws known to humankind.
Outside the city limits is an orphanage for teenaged boys, who are run off the polygamous grounds by the leaders of the clan. The older leaders don't want the competition for the young girls from the teen boys. There is nowhere for these boys to go, save this orphanage.
The women and children live in poverty and domestic violence is common, as is the incest and child rape. The infanticide, the murder, is too much for the members themselves to bear.
They are willing to go on talk shows, but they need to shield themselves from the law, to protect their shameful secret, a secret they are forced to live, in these polygamous cults.
Only one organization, Tapestry Against Polygamy, has been organized, to date that can help people trapped in polygamy.
Tapestry Against Polygamy is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. It advocates against the human rights violations found in polygamy and provides assistance to individuals leaving the polygamous cults.
The Utah and Arizona Attorney General's office issued a statement claiming that between 20,000 and 40,000 people live in polygamy. Tapestry Against Polygamy puts the number much higher, up to 100,000.
Tapestry Against Polygamy's website includes several danger signs of abuse within a polygamous relationship.
These danger signs include: telling women to stay in the abusive relationship, that the abuse is "a correction from the Lord,"; furthermore, the members are under:
- pressure to perform sexual acts through coercion;
- threats or intimation to take away the husband's attention for 'wrong' behavior;
- pressure because people outside the religion are unable to help members;
- males have more rights than females;
- leadership is never shared, it is always about control;
- members frequently preface their remarks with "The Lord has told me".
- For more information, contact Tapestry Against Polygamy, P. O. Box 9397,Â Salt Lake City, Utah, 84109-0397.Â Phone: 801-259-5200. Website: www.polygamy.org.Â