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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is 'Sister Wives' Hiding The Disturbing Truth About Polygamy?

Despite the recent well-publicized and deeply disturbing child molestation trial of self-proclaimed polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs, TV reality show polygamist Kody Brown and his trendy wives and family seem to be everywhere these days. Their TV show, "Sister Wives," is a big hit. They are constantly sought after for interviews and talk show fodder, and are even up for an Emmy nomination. It seems like every time I turn on the television I am seeing or hearing stories about their "...unconventional -- yet somehow relatable family." Unfortunately, that type of terminology, which is doled out in heaping portions by the media, has a dramatically different meaning for me than for others who seem to have been smitten by the show.

For more than seven years, as a private investigator I have been investigating and researching similar polygamous societies, but mainly the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its outlaw prophet, Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a sentence of life plus twenty years in a Texas prison. With respect to the polygamous cultures that I have been dealing with over the years, that type of unschooled and reckless terminology makes me recoil. I can only hope and pray that the depravity of child abuse and the degradation of women and children to the status of chattel will never be thought of in such a callous manner as simply- unconventional yet relatable. 

In my world, unconventional doesn't mean four mommies showing up for back-to-school night; the FLDS do not send their kids to public schools. If they're lucky, the children may receive the equivalent of an eighth grade education before being sent out to work on a construction job, or to become mothers themselves. Admittance into the bride pool can begin within a few weeks after a child's twelfth birthday. "Mother" is the person who raises and nurtures you as a "daughter in Zion" over the course of those short formative years. She then takes you by the hand and places it in the hand of a man decades older, in an arranged "spiritual sexual union," alongside that man's several or many other "sister wives." That's what I call unconventional!

And it's not just the girls and women who are victims of these polygamous practices. Think about the math. The normal male to female ratio in any given population is approximately 50/50, including polygamous societies. So if a family's religious ambition is to gain as many wives as possible, what is to become of the leftover male population? Kody Brown has four wives, but many men have eight, ten, twenty, even more than eighty wives. The more wives a man is able to acquire, the higher his religious standing in the polygamous caste system. So what happens to those boys?

One way or another, they're discarded and cast out. Abandoned by their families, cut off without contact and forcibly ejected. One of the earliest FLDS cases I worked on involved many of these "lost boys." It's heartbreaking. Just a few weeks ago, at Cottonwood Park in Hildale, Utah, a fifteen-year-old boy crashed the party of a group celebrating the Fourth of July. The partiers were a handful of former FLDS members who had had the good fortune to break the strangle hold of the unconventional culture they had been brought up and indoctrinated in. In an act of desperation, the boy approached the group of strangers and pleaded for help. The picnickers reported the sad events surrounding the boy's story: "His dad told him that he was 'no longer welcome at the family home' and told him to 'come and get his stuff,' which his family threw all over the lawn while screaming at him that he was going to go to 'burn in hell.' Someone helped him pick up his things and hauled him down to St. George for the night, where he had found a temporary place to stay." This is just one example of hundreds of similar stories I've heard or participated in over the course of my investigations. Unconventional - yet somehow relatable? 

When I arrived home one evening a few weeks ago, I hurriedly turned on the television, hoping to catch a news story concerning a case I was working on. It involved a client that had recently been banished from his home, family, community and lost his livelihood, all at the behest of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs - my client's brother. No reason was given -- but the worth of young girls is greater than a truck load of gold and are the most sought after prize. My banished client was scared to death that his brother Warren, who is awaiting child rape charges in Texas, and who has in excess of eighty wives himself, would dole out my client's daughters as underage brides to other polygamous church leaders, and quite possibly assimilate some of my client's family into Jeffs's own. So, he made the unconventional decision to sue to try and recover his children and wife before it was too late.

The anticipated newscast ended, but then it happened! There he was again -- Kody Brown. Mouthing off about his lot in life, having to endure the self-imposed public criminal lifestyle that he had chosen not only for himself, but for his family as well. And how it was his God-given right to break the law and live his life in pursuit of his own personal values, "even if those values run counter to those of the majority of the state." Using that logic, there would be no boundaries as long as one made the claim that whatever criminal activity one chose to participate in was part of religious beliefs. Here I was still wringing my hands, worried about my client's children, and on comes this self-absorbed, circus ring leader, whining about whether or not he is going to have to move to Nevada to avoid arrest as a polygamist.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, appearing on my TV set was Brown's attorney, Jonathan Turley, making one of the most absurd statements I have ever heard come from the mouth of a supposedly educated man. "This really isn't a polygamy case," he said. "It's a privacy case. It's about the right of consenting adults to have their own families committed to their own values." I couldn't believe it! This drivel coming from a man who is representing a family who goes on television for the express purpose of exposing the intimate details of their lives to the entire world; and this lawsuit is about privacy?

I work for attorneys on a daily basis, they're my bread and butter, and I've seen all kinds, good and bad. I know when an attorney has accepted a load of crap from his client and takes on the job of convincing a court of law that the crap he's shoveling doesn't stink, that it's actually aromatic. The federal lawsuit he proposed, challenging the polygamy provision in Utah's constitution, could have been filed anywhere, since polygamy is outlawed in all fifty states. But since the Browns were now Nevada residents, and polygamy is also illegal in Nevada, why bring the suit to Utah? Could it be that Turley was orchestrating a dog and pony show, planned and staged more for his own self-aggrandizement and for the show's ratings, than to help these poor victims of a lifestyle they purportedly went into with their eyes wide open? Is this case part of a tax break for his pro bono obligation to the DC Bar, or are the costs and expenses of the Brown case coming out of his advertising and marketing budget? Or, perhaps the producers of the "Sister Wives" reality show would have us all believe that all this public drama is part of a necessary and unscripted event to protect the Browns constitutional rights, as opposed to the show's television ratings.

Perhaps Kody Brown and his family, and for that matter the entire cult he adheres to, are otherwise completely benign, law-abiding citizens. I don't really know enough about their present circumstances to make that call. But I do know where their group came from. Their leadership sprang from the same roots as the FLDS church. In the polygamous cultures I have learned about and witnessed, there is a volatile mix of religious extremism and blind obedience and one of the components that propagates the secrecy and need for "privacy" is polygamy. When most legitimate religious groups are eager to reach out and share the ideas and beliefs they hold dear, the Browns have been hesitant to even mention just exactly what religious group they're a part of. And when people like the Browns attempt to legitimize, and glamorize their illegal lifestyle by staging a very public piece of entertainment, it sends chills down my spine. And rightly so; I hope many more will share my response after taking the time to educate themselves and learn about the child abuse that is a part of many polygamous cultures.

Written By: Sam Brower, who is the author of the new book "Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints."


  1. Sounds like a communistic police state from what this BC has observed. I understand BCs aren't even allowed anymore, which is their loss. Only difference seems they ship their males of the species off the ranch rather than what they do to the male cows here on the farm. That is a miserable life, if you want to call it that.

  2. I just finished Mr. Brower's book Prophet's Prey. The names Jessop and Allred are among the henchmen to Warren Jeffs. Christine has stated that they are in no way conncected to this sect. The Jeffs group has business holdings in Vegas, Robyn's old man has a business in Vegas. One other thought, they always talk about being sealed for all eternity yet Janelle and Robyn are divorced. her bullshit about being forever bound to Kodouche because of this coming baby is crap. Did she say the same thing to David Jessop three other times when she had his children? What a crock.

  3. Excellent article.

    Poolqueen brings up the Vegas connection. Why did the Browns choose Vegas, really? Maybe they are going to start selling plyg houses and build a plyg community there.

  4. Maybe It's a consiracy that they chose Vegas and filed the law suit. I usually consider myself a progressive thinker. If consenting adults want to co-habitate I would normally say more power to ya. But in light of this law suit, I sit back and think, what kind of impact this could. If polyagmy is legalized the FLDS would find would find that loop hole that says their "lifesyle/religion" is legal and just. Young girls will continue to be forced into sexual relationships with old men, boys continually thrown into the streets, and women degraded. Is it possible that even though the Brown's say they are not connected to FLDS that they may still have ties. Maybe they are what the FLDS, AUB, and other fundamentalist groups want presented to put this kind of "we are too kooky and weird to pose any threat" kinda sheen on polygamy. Kody could be their puppet. He's like one of those dogs thats super hyper and wants nothing more than to please. Weren't the Brown's chosen for their show through the AUB. Just a thought. I probably watch too much tv, and have an over active imagination.

  5. You're right, Mom of 3. I think that the Browns were choosen to show a cool, hip version of polygamy as oposed to the prarie dress wearing folks.
    This show was carefully planned so that when the Jeffs trial blew up, they could say, "No way are we from the same group." those names keep coming up, they travel in the same circles.
    Reading Mr. Brower's book was an eye opener. I've read just about every book on polygamy so far and this was is by far the most in depth. I'm starting on the new one called Love times Three, the group that was on Dr. Phil's show last week.
    One other thing, those of you that watched Willie Jessop on Dr. Phil, do you believe that he's really sorry for the role he has played? It's damn funny how frequently he shows up in Sam Brower's book, yet on national TV he claimed that he was just the enforcer, he really didn't know about the underage girls forced into marriage or the lost boys. Baloney!

  6. I think the show is like "16 and Pregnant." It sounds like it's glamorous until you actually watch it and see how pathetic it is. The Browns are just sad and brainwashed. Anyone watching that would be horrified if their daughter "married" this loser.

    I completely disagree with the legal point. The law, as written, makes it a felony to CALL someone your "wife," not sleep around or whatever. It's a speech issue, and (Priesthood Holder Kody help me!), it's a religious issue.

    If you work for a lawyer, you know that no one had STANDING for this terrible law until these idiots showed up and the even more idiotic law enforcement starting rattling their cage. The Browns are going to win, and, ironically, that might be the death knell for these cults because it will lift the secrecy.

  7. I think All of you bring up excellent points. I haven't read Mr. Brower's book Prophet's Prey, I must go get it!
    As far as the connections, sounds like we have some sleuths on our hands. We'd love to hear more!!!!

  8. GREAT Article, I need to go get his book, too. Maybe we could have a discussion on it?

  9. Mom of 3
    Bite your tongue.
    Don't compare Kody to one of those super hyper dogs!!

    I take great exception, and if I wasn't a girl, I'd go pee on somebody's leg.

    I'm a very smart BC, undisputedly the smartest of dogs, and Kody doesn't cut it, at all. He'd be abandoned at birth.

  10. I posted earlier that I was starting to read Love Times Three by the Dargers. Again, a slick version of the same story. Mr. Darger is the chairman of his group with The Principle Voice and he mentions Ms. Butcheor. One of the wives was married at 18 to a 44 year old man. She was his fifth wife, turned out to be a POS so she left him and ended up marrying her twin sister's husband. He is also rearing her children that she had with husband #1. Why don't the biological fathers ever have anything to do with their kids when they get divorced? What about all their followers on their own planet when they die? This book takes Family and Children Services to task because they were investigated when one of the children died at 10 months of age. They try and make it look like the only reason they were investigated was because their name "Darger" was a poligamist name. Again, the Jessop name was mentioned.

  11. Sorry Border Collie, didn't mean to offend you. I like Border Collies! Truely I do. I love my pooch, who is a great pyrenees. I was referring to dogs that have that "hyper Behavior" like running in endless circles or jumping up and down a million times in a row to see themselves in a mirror. My grandma has a dog like this.

  12. Mom of 3
    You are right on track. This is part of a conspiracy to get Polygamy legalized!

  13. It is clear by reading this blog, there is an issue with polygamists which is fine. No one is forcing anyone to life their life or saying you must agree and follow them. Here is my problem, if Kody is so terrible and Robyn whiney etc, why are you watching? Just so you have someone to insult and ridicule?

    Anyone that harms children, such as Jeff’s or his like are breaking the law and hiding behind people such as the Browns and Dargers is not going to change the fact they are child abusers.

    The Brown’s have very clearly stated more than once they are appalled at the abuse of these young girls and are NOT associated with that group of people.

    Not every polygamist family marries young girls, nor are all breaking the law and using the welfare system to support their families. Yet everyone assumes because a family has plural wives they are all the same.

    That is like saying all traditional families are the same. Keep in mind Dennis Rader (AKA the green river killer) was church-going family man, a Cub Scout leader, and a dog-catcher for the trim suburb of Park City. Oh and a serial killer.

    Anyone remember Joel Steinburg, an attorney who battered his wife and killed her adopted daughter. There was so called traditional families, and yet they are/were monsters.

    Are we do assume the people such as this mean every traditional family is evil because some are? The same can be said about polygamists.

    My heart breaks for the girls forced into marriage and the boys tossed out as they are viewed as threats. I do not see any evidence of abuse in the Brown family, I see a family brave enough to come forward and say we are different this is our story and we are willing to share it.

    Those who want to pass judgment I wonder would you be willing to open your home and life to the general public to tear about everything you do and say and believe in. Because I bet there are people who would find issue in how you live your life and the choices you make too.

  14. Mom of 3 Thank you :) :) :)

    Leah, if you accept money to open your home(s), wife (wives), children for tv audiences you can expect both the fauning and and faulters.

    Blogs allow like minded people to snark if they want. You aren't paying us to listen to your lectures.

  15. poolqueen

    To answer your question, I know that Robyn's kids see their dad, but, as far as in general with the AUB- maybe someone else can jump in here with an answer?????

  16. Leah,
    It's their lies that bother me. And, they have evaded many truths by omission.
    Are you a polygamist? If so, by religion? What faith do you follow.
    If you are, we would like to hear from you, too.

  17. Answer to Leah;
    My issue is that the Browns have been caught in numerous lies about alot of things. When names and places connected to the Browns show up in other "creepy" poligamist sects, that's when I call bullshit. The Dargers (Love times Three) are connected with Principle Voices just like the Browns are. This group is in high gear doing damage control after the Jeffs trial. I don't watch the show to find fault and pick at them, I'm really trying to understand these women.

  18. Mister Sister Blogger,
    I am indeed a polygamist but am unlike those you see on television, in the news or anywhere in the news for the matter. In fact, I sometimes believe me and my family are one of a kind. Let me explain.

    I am not, nor have I have been a Mormon of any sect. I was not raised in or around polygamists or the Mormon religion. I was raised Catholic, converted to Judaism when I married my husband. Both religions do not condone polygamy. Therefore I would say I and my family are not associated with any religion. I believe in God, Heaven and Hell and believe my beliefs are between me and God, and I will answer to him when I die.

    I had a traditional married of which 4 children were born, that ended very badly after 15 years. The simple truth is once he beat me so badly I was put on life support I finally realized at some point he would kill me. This is not to bad mouth my ex husband, he is the father of my children. We are volatile and I have heard he has addressed his demons and is happily married to his former daughter in law (she was once married to his son from a former marriage) and has had more children. I wish them well and harbor no ill feelings towards him. I had to let it go for my own sanity. All of our children are now adults and three have children of their own, the fourth is only 18 so still working on education.

    I then had a small number of very unhealthy relationships and had reached a point where I had given up on having a healthy relationship and was focused on my career in the legal profession. I was not seeking a relationship or love when my husband entered my life.

    None of us were planning on this happening but it did. He loves his first wife deeply and we also fell in love. Thus, polygamy was the answer and it works for us. We do not all reside together and have two homes. He is our husband, and it works for us.

    We have no children and none of us are planning on having more. Simple, my children are grown, and all but one child, all have a great relationship with my husband as do our grandchildren. One child has an issue with it but that is another story, as she has a problem with almost everything in life that doesn’t go her way.

    I fully understand this choice is not for everyone and some have moral and ethical issues with our life. I do not begrudge anyone their beliefs. I can also say I doubt I would ever want cameras following me around documenting my life. However, I applaud the Browns and Dargers for coming forward and exposing their lives. I also do not begrudge them for getting paid to do so. I will say due to the viewers turning in, it keeps the show on the air and thus the participants continuing to get paid.

    Why I do not have an issue with them getting paid is simple. Making a decision to allow cameras to document their lives, means opening themselves to ridicule and giving up a level of privacy. Granted it was a choice, but it is not one I believe was reached easily due to the lack of normalcy that comes with real life television. All people who have become tv personalities due to real life tv shows has said they no longer have privacy. Thus, their lives become jobs in a sense. But just my opinion.

  19. Leah
    It sounds like you had a very hard road to walk before you found happiness. The fact that people can turn their lives around and see hope and joy again is reassuring and inspirational.

    Your story is pretty unlike the Brown's and other religious polygamists though. You were not raised to believe that you were literally DAMNED TO HELL if you were: A) uncomfortable sharing your husband B) unwilling to marry the man you were directed (forced) to or C) disobedient to your husband in any way. You were a consenting adult who choose your situation with NO THREATS hanging over your head.

    Rarely has anyone in this blog said anything too negative about the Browns (especially not that they didn't deserve--Robyn does have a very prominent and awkward chin afterall). They have been given their fair chance and yet discrepencies have been popping up. No one has accused the Browns of anything so horrible as forced underage marriages or child abuse. There has been a LOT of proof that the Brown are concealing the truth about many things, primarily their finances, but also the distance between their family and some of the FLDS people. This casts an aura of suspicion over the whole thing. They've lied several times, so really, they could be lying about anything.

    Ultimately, many and more people have shared their personal, "live and let live" policies, but are reaching for additional information and answers to be as well informed as possible. The conclusion that is *generally* being reached is that the form of polygamy typically practiced by these fundamentalist Mormons groups is worrying to our society as a whole.

    In your case though, I think we'd love to hear more about the details of your day to day life. How you work out jealousy, sharing, the dishes, cooking, laundry and everything like that.

  20. A day ahead
    I don't think the Browns have ever really been asked to address thier finances etc although it is possible I am worng and I agree that the fundamentalisr version of polygamy can do more bad than good, especailly to the general publics view of polygamy that one sided look in does not mean all polygamous relationships are painted with the same wide brush. Most ned to remember that Polygamy and Polyamoury (sp) are 2 very distinct things with different ideals attached to them. They do not always go hand in hand and there are those who think all the lines are blurred when they may not be.

  21. Leah,
    I have no problem with polygamy if the religion is not involved, nor little children. I am sorry you went through so much!

  22. Mister..
    Leah, my wife,would be more than happy to speak on what she, and I know and do. She is a wonderful, expressive woman who I cherish daily

  23. Mister,

    So as not to hijack your blog, I have started one in order to answer questions and respond without again hijacking yours.

    I will explain more on the who does dishes, jealousy etc there. I look forward to more discussions on the topic.


  24. Dennis Rader was the BTK Killer, not the Green River Killer. GOSH. Try to keep up if you are going to talk serial killers.

  25. Leah, I hope the legal wife is as ecstatically happy as you claim to be. Sorry you had a rotten experience and sorry you couldn't find a man of your own

  26. A bounch of attention seeking freaks. I'm very progressive and I couldn't care less,if they wouldn't bring religion and scriptures in to the mix.I used to live in the middle east and the moderate muslims have stopped practicing polygamy a long time ago.So here at home,it's Ok??Where is the law and why aren't those perverted men in jail?I don't get it.Kids go to jail for smoking a joint...but this is fine???

  27. Ok I don't get it.Here they are on TV whining about persecution and what not...I don't see anybody in jail.I'm very worried about the children since they are brainwashed in to this lifestyle.Another thing,why do the men get multible wifes? Where is the equality,why can't the women have multible husbands?So much for equal partners!Sickening, it really is.

  28. I cringe when Kody says "love should be multiplied and not divided." I am an English major and even I know that one divided by three is called division not multiplication. What about those poor kids? They had a special about college where one of the kids said, "of course, they would pay their own expenses for college." My guess is that in actuality the tax payers will pay. This is not an atmosphere that nurtures and values each individual in a family. It is testosterone gone amok. Kody looks more like a strutting rooster than a husband or father. Polygamy should no more be legalized in America than slavery should be reinstated.

  29. Informative Article. I've seen Sam on TV, and he strikes me as an honest, down to earth man. the last paragraph should be read by all:
    Perhaps Kody Brown and his family, and for that matter the entire cult he adheres to, are otherwise completely benign, law-abiding citizens. I don't really know enough about their present circumstances to make that call. But I do know where their group came from. Their leadership sprang from the same roots as the FLDS church. In the polygamous cultures I have learned about and witnessed, there is a volatile mix of religious extremism and blind obedience and one of the components that propagates the secrecy and need for "privacy" is polygamy. When most legitimate religious groups are eager to reach out and share the ideas and beliefs they hold dear, the Browns have been hesitant to even mention just exactly what religious group they're a part of. And when people like the Browns attempt to legitimize, and glamorize their illegal lifestyle by staging a very public piece of entertainment, it sends chills down my spine. And rightly so; I hope many more will share my response after taking the time to educate themselves and learn about the child abuse that is a part of many polygamous cultures.

    Intersting, thought provoking. And yes, they are from the same FLDS roots, and still breaking the law. (Judas Priest song comes to mind here. - Kody running, it playing)
    thank you for posting educational and thought provoking posts as well as the fun stuff. Best blog on the web!