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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Is What Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy Looks Like

posted by on May 28 at 12:08 PM


A number of Slog tipsters have written to commiserate about the deep ickiness they felt upon encountering the just-released old photos of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and two of his tender young brides.

As the Smoking Gun reports:

The photos were introduced Friday at a child custody hearing stemming from last month’s raid at a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compund. Jeffs, the former FLDS leader…is pictured with a girl named Loretta in three photos, which were snapped in January 2005 and recorded the couple’s “First Anniversary.” Six other images show Jeffs, now 52, in July 2006 photos with a girl named Merrianne, who was 12 at the time.


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NSFW! Argh!! Yucky!

Posted by DanFan | May 28, 2008 12:11 PM


Posted by Rotten666 | May 28, 2008 12:20 PM

"This is What Polygamy Looks Like"

Uh... no?

Posted by w7ngman | May 28, 2008 12:23 PM

As a long-time advocate for gay rights, I've learned to be very specific about what I am criticizing. Your headline states "This is what Polygamy looks like." I think that's an erroneous title to this picture. Rather, you should say, "This is what pedophila looks like."

It would be similar to posting a picture from NAMBLA and saying "This is what homosexuality looks like."

Posted by Timothy | May 28, 2008 12:24 PM

Holy chimo!!!

Posted by der | May 28, 2008 12:24 PM

Seriously, dudes, polygamists are always NSFW.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 28, 2008 12:28 PM

I'm with #4 on this one. Oh, my eyes, my eyes... Those poor little girls...

Posted by DanFan | May 28, 2008 12:28 PM

old news - the guy is in prison

of course if we put in prison all the old guys who like young women - might be lots of guys in jail

just saying - sexual stuff can be complicated, even STRANGE

Posted by Marty | May 28, 2008 12:30 PM


And yet polygamist communities have a tried-and-true history of devolving into this bullshit. It might be related to adult women having more agency and not being willing to share a husband with several other women. Better to marry them off young, before they have any chance of making their own decisions.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 28, 2008 12:32 PM

Uh, Marty, these photos were introduced as part of an investigation that is ongoing. Which makes it not "old news."

Posted by David Schmader | May 28, 2008 12:33 PM

Personally, I'm a fan of the classic guy standing behind the girl, arms around the waist pose. Very Sadie Hawkins.

Posted by el | May 28, 2008 12:37 PM

@8 - "Complicated?" "Strange?" How about just plain wrong? Those little girls (not "young women") have been raised in an environment that teaches them that it's ok for adults to have sex with children. That's neither complicated nor strange; it's sick and depraved. I'm sure there are more pics where those came from.

Posted by DanFan | May 28, 2008 12:37 PM

@9 Keshmeshi...

I'm very versed in what most extant polygamous communities devolve into. Yet and still, it's erroneous to suggest the plural marriages must include pedophilia.

Again, many people, for years and years, argued that homosexuality inevitably devolved into pedophilia. This, for example, seems to be the ongoing argument of the Boy Scouts of America.

It's an inaccurate portrayal, and the labels should be used appropriately.

Posted by Timothy | May 28, 2008 12:43 PM

#4 wrote: It would be similar to posting a picture from NAMBLA and saying "This is what homosexuality looks like."

There are ten million alternate images to represent homosexuality outside of a NAMBLA photo--Ellen Degeneres, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Ernie and Bert, etc etc etc.

The only alternate images for polygamy I've seen are the adult women of the Texas FLDS camp--the women who allow their 12-year-old daughters (or were themselves forced as 12-year-olds) to marry much older, visibly inbred men.

Still, if someone supplies me with a photo of a happy, healthy, smiling polygamous couple-or-more, I swear to God I'll post it.

Posted by David Schmader | May 28, 2008 12:45 PM

I wish I could think of something more intelligent to say about this, but......

Ew! EW! Ew! Ew! Ew!

Posted by Queen_of_Sleaze | May 28, 2008 12:49 PM

My initial impulse, on viewing those photos, was to put my eyes out. My second, and more rational impulse, was to put that disgusting old fucker's eyes out, with a hot poker.


I know a number of polyamorous families who consider themselves happily multiply married, but they are not "polygamous" insofar as multiple marriage is not allowed. None of them are pedophiles.

What the FLDS practices is not actually polygamy. It is pedophiliac polygyny.

Posted by Geni | May 28, 2008 12:51 PM
Posted by w7ngman | May 28, 2008 12:52 PM

Geni at 16 brings up a great point: There are tons of happy polyamorous folks who'd rather die than engage in pedophilia.

Hence, I did not label this post "This is What Polyamory Looks Like."

Posted by David Schmader | May 28, 2008 12:54 PM

am i the only one confused as to why the face of the girl isnt pixilated/scrambled? Underage victim, right? i understand that it is helping to build the case of the ongoing investigation, but shouldnt she be provided anonymity in the media?

Posted by Nate | May 28, 2008 12:56 PM

David @14: Your personal unfamiliarity with positive examples of polygamy makes a pretty low standard of evidence for tarring every polygamist with pedophilia's brush.

Timothy @13: what you said, bro.

Posted by Eric Arrr | May 28, 2008 1:01 PM

David Schmader @14...

Again, in the 70's or the 80's in this Country, what you say about polygamy (or, polyamory as others have suggested) was being said with frequency about the gay community. "Sure, you might find a mild homosexual if you look really hard, but the vast majority of them devolve into pedophiles!"

You're casting a net too large. Polygamy is illegal, and thus mostly only practiced by those on the fringe of society, and then, in hiding. This creates a dangerous situation that results in much of what you see in these closed religious cults.

But, even here in Seattle, there are numerous polyamorous relationships that have been thriving for years. But, because it is illegal for them to marry, and the acceptance of their relationships is anathema to a degree decades behind homosexual relationships, they don't advertise themselves too often.

But, I guess I'm curious why you need to argue the point? Do you really think you're using the terminology correctly?

Posted by Timothy | May 28, 2008 1:01 PM

One evening while serving in the Peace Corps in Cameroon a fellow Peace Corps vol and I went out for dinner in a provincial capital. Awaiting our grub we had a beer and gossiped about our fellow vols. Usually about whoís zooming who. Rather candidly, I asked if she ever wanted to marry (we werenít dating). She smiled and said to me ďIím a gay womanĒ. I returned her smile and gave her a hug. We then proceeded to drink more beer and consume a delicious chicken dinner. Fast forward about 16 years and the gay marriage debate is raging. I started hearing advocates use whether one is for or against it almost as a litmus test for homophobia. That troubled me. Largely because many Americans never gave the issue of gay marriage much thought. I, nor my friend certainly didnít. I had wondered if any advocates on either side could ever discuss this hot issue without concluding bigotry or small mindedness.

That said, I'm on record as having no problem with gay marriage. But, the Wash. St. Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as "between one man and one woman" to offset both gay marriage and polygamy. How does one feel about polygamy allowance for consenting adults the age of 18 and over? It technically was legal in the USA until 1879(?). In addition, much of the developing world practices it. It is practiced in Cameroon. Honestly, it isnít a big issue for me. I donít know why. I guess living in Cameroon and having known several polygamists, I just thought some of them treat their wives all right. I know it is not for me. I just want one wife. But, I resided in a country that tolerates it. Now, I live in a country where at least two states allow gay marriage. I can understand why some gay men & women and their advocates want gay marriage. But there may reasons against both gay marriage and polygamy. Itís the nuances of defining marriage that people are quibbling about.

Posted by lark | May 28, 2008 1:04 PM

Perhaps there is no subculture or group that The Stranger is entirely free to hate without knowing the particulars.

Posted by elenchos | May 28, 2008 1:06 PM

#18, you're equivocating, and you missed the point of #16.

The point was that the polyamorous people can't actually be called polygamists, because it is illegal. If they *could* get married, they would, and it wouldn't magically cause them to devolve into pedophiles.

Posted by w7ngman | May 28, 2008 1:09 PM
Posted by Christin | May 28, 2008 1:17 PM

I stand by my word choice, but I'll add a couple qualifiers to avoid suggesting all plural-marrieds are diddling kids.

As for the reason behind my passion: Last week, a Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the state's removal of 130-plus children from the Texas FLDS compound was unjustified. As the court wrote, "Evidence that children raised in this particular environment may someday have their physical health and safety threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of immediate removal prior to full litigation of the issue."

These Jeffs photos look like something close to proof of imminent danger to me...(But then Jeffs is safely in prison, so his particular danger can't be too imminent, so back the kids go to the compound, I guess...)

Posted by David Schmader | May 28, 2008 1:17 PM

In this particular case, polygamy is synonymous with pedophilia, and we pretty much all agree that it is deeply, deeply icky.

But you're wrong, David. Polygamy does not necessarily devolve into pedophilia. It seems to in this country's recent past. However, polygamy was widely practiced in Africa and China prior to the European colonial period. In that context, polygamy was fairly misogynist (almost always one man with multiple wives), but was usually between adults, not children.

And I think you're splitting hairs between polygamy and polyamory. The only real difference is that polygamists multiple-marry while polyamorists simply multiple-relate without benefit of marriage. Probably many of the happy polyamorous folks you know would become polygamists if they were allowed to, just as many gay people would get married if we were allowed to.

Despite how deeply creepy the FLDS is, polygamy does not by definition involve child brides.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | May 28, 2008 1:21 PM

David @ 18: The only difference between polyamory and polygamy is state/church-sanctioned marriage.

Given that, you can pretty much count every committed poly couple++ that you happen to know as de-facto polygamists.

I count myself in that bunch, by the way.

Posted by Eric Arrr | May 28, 2008 1:23 PM

David...I'll share your passion for the safety of children. Yet, history tells us that we must be careful in how we label, and I think you are being too flip in your labels.

I disdain the FLDS and Jeffs. And yet, I think Texas abridged the fundamental rights of many individuals when they took all the kids from all of the parents absent proof in each case.

Basic rights aren't only to be protected in middle america, but on the margins as well.

These lessons have been largely informed by my history fighting for gay rights, and I think your casual misuse of terminology is irresponsible.

Posted by Timothy | May 28, 2008 1:23 PM

I think you are all missing the point. This has nothing to do with the gay-marriage debate or what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. The point is these fuckwads hid behind religion to basically claim their right to bone 12-year olds in the holy name of "marriage." The only thing that is dangerous to the "sanctity" of marriage is religion itself. Just talk to a Promise Keeper and you will see what delusions religions put on sexual relationships. Screw marriage - I say, take it away from everyone. It is an antiquated religious institution that should be done away with. I say renewable "marriage" licenses for all (none of this til-death-does-us-part stuff.)

Oh, and the picture made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Posted by smp | May 28, 2008 1:30 PM

There are polygamous cultures all over the world. Do they all involve pedophilia? I'm asking - I don't know the answer.

Posted by pox | May 28, 2008 1:30 PM

Thanks for all your input, Timothy, you brought up a ton of good points (and made me lightly regret not opting for my alternate Slog-post title "Warren Jeffs' Tender Young Nuptials," which would have avoided offending the non-criminal polyamorous, but also preempted all this online learning-and-growing, so I consider it a draw.)

Posted by David Schmader | May 28, 2008 1:32 PM

David, Frontline had a great show about Polygamy last night (around 10pm) and they interviewed a couple Poly couples who 2 of the women were sisters(!). They felt threatened by their way of life because of the FDLS thing, even though they weren't really on the fringe, their kids going to school (one son had dyed emo hair), etc.

I honestly don't care what consenting adults do, and I think the distinction needs to be made that as long as the people are over 18, having had access to education, they can make their own choices.

The FDLS has not only engaged in marrying and abusing underage kids, they have denied these kids education, and the ability to make their own choices. That is their crime. Polygamy? Not so much.

Posted by Original Monique | May 28, 2008 1:33 PM

It's worth adding that anything that includes living in a "compound" will probably not turn out well. First comes the isolation, then the Stockhom syndrome and from there you got your SWAT teams forming up along the perimeter. With or without polygamy.

Posted by elenchos | May 28, 2008 1:40 PM

All I know is that for Halloween, I wanna be an FLDS wife. Love that 'Little House on the Prairie' dress and the rad braid-with-lofty-bangs do.

Posted by Madashell | May 28, 2008 1:50 PM

@35 I know. It's such a great look. The Polygamy Pompadour, and they just have the one dress pattern!

(Oh, and don't screw little girls!)

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | May 28, 2008 2:03 PM

The girl in the purple dress looks pregnant. ugh!

Here's more creepiness from the Jez.

Posted by yucca flower | May 28, 2008 2:21 PM

You didn't even show the worst picture, which is the one showing that the girl only comes up to his armpit. She's four feet tall. Nasty, nasty stuff. Why did he only get ten years for this?

Posted by Fnarf | May 28, 2008 2:26 PM

Religion ruins everything. I say they are all fucked in the head.

Posted by monkey | May 28, 2008 2:30 PM

I'm surprised that no one in this thread has yet mentioned the most significant problem with polygamy: that institutionalizing multiple wives for men = a lot of useless boys who end up homeless and damaged. See

Posted by shub-negrorath | May 28, 2008 2:32 PM

barf, barf, barfity barf. why hasn't jeffs been killed in prison yet?

Posted by scary tyler moore | May 28, 2008 2:35 PM

Aren't these pictures kiddie porn?

Posted by Vince | May 28, 2008 3:15 PM

Actually, that might be true in industrialized/developed countries whatever that might mean. But, it is not true necessarily where polygamy exists. Remember, that NYT story is about Utah not say, Cameroon or anywhere polygamy is practiced. Besides in virtually all societies (polygamous or not) males overwhelmingly populate prisons.

Posted by lark | May 28, 2008 3:25 PM

I saw the Frontline episode last night too with the sisters that share a husband and another wife. I had to find out a bit more. There are a lot of stories about that particular family. The one here has a video clip of pictures of the family:

Posted by jcd | May 28, 2008 3:32 PM

Are you going to post the picture?

Posted by w7ngman | May 28, 2008 3:46 PM
In that context, polygamy was fairly misogynist (almost always one man with multiple wives), but was usually between adults, not children.

Um, no. Do you know how young women/girls got married off in those societies? Pretty fucking young. And calling those societies, and polygamy practiced in those societies, fairly misogynist is a phenomenal understatement. Women and girls in those societies were seen as nothing other than baby factories, which explains why they were married off so young.

Almost always one man with multiple wives? No, always one man with multiple wives.

It should also be mentioned that, as women's rights have improved in those societies, polygamy turns more and more into an anachronism. Because, with very few exceptions, polygamy is not good for women. Unless the man is very wealthy, it's a guaranteed life of poverty. In those societies, women don't get to choose their fellow wives, meaning that they have to put up with other women they can't fucking stand. They also have to compete for basic necessities for themselves and their children and for their husband's attention/affection. When women have choices, they're not crazy enough to choose polygamy.


There aren't that many men in prison. Your argument doesn't hold water. In societies where polygamy is normal, many men wind up with no prospects for marriage.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 28, 2008 4:01 PM

Isn't this very a very inappropriate photo for the Stranger to publish? Would you publish a photo of a rape victim? That's what this little girl is. She is a victim of rape. I guess since she is part of some wacko, religious douchebaggery she's fair game, huh? After all, look how she's dressed!!

Posted by peewee | May 28, 2008 4:15 PM

The sentence "There aren't that many men in prison" is outrageously incorrect. There are 2.3 million incarcerated Americans as of 4/08. About 96,000 of them are women (2004). The USA probably has the largest prison population on earth outside of China. Technically, we don't have polygamy.

The last sentence ending with " prospects for marriage" is correct. Polygamy doesn't benefit men. It benefits in women biologically. As they can share a man to have babies with. Men that don't marry in polygamist societies have a devil of time finding a wife.

My argument holds more than water, it holds logic.

I'm for polygamy allowance not for polygamy.

Posted by lark | May 28, 2008 5:31 PM

seems to me polyamory is very different from polygamy. as mentioned before, polygamy is all about serving men, and taking away power from women. and 12 year old girls, in this case.

where are all the polygamist households with multiple husbands? please.

by contrast, i'm not aware of any polyamorous households based on misogyny. however they decide to live, they don't seem to be hurting anybody with their modern day free-love thing.

Posted by gforce | May 28, 2008 7:15 PM

Thank you @49, I was wondering when someone would point that out.

Polyamory, at least as I've seen it practiced, is much more fluid in terms of the interrelationships between the participants than is poligamy, as it seems to be practiced in this country at any rate. Women have equal standing with men, are free to select their own partners, and both men and women tend to occupy multiple status' within what appears to be a rather dynamic hierarchy: one can be a primary, secondary, tertiary etc., etc. in any number of relationships.

Poligamy on the other hand is defined by a very rigid social hierarchy, with one "alpha" male in the primary position of power, and multiple females in subservient positions below. The women don't have any option as to whether they can establish relationships with other males, and the males themselves NEVER take on less than the most dominant position in their own hierarchy, and as others have pointed out, would also never consider allowing another male to encroach on their "harem".

While there might not seem like much of a difference between poligamy and polyamory to the casual, uninformed observer, nevertheless, the differences that DO exist between the two would seem to be comparitively quite significant.

Posted by COMTE | May 28, 2008 10:43 PM

For our purposes, let's define our terms: polyandry is adult human females having multiple adult husbands and polygyny is adult human males having multiple adult wives (the most common in human societies). They are subsets of polygamy which is an adult human having multiple spouses. Polyamory is an adult human having multiple adult partners.

Posted by lark | May 28, 2008 11:07 PM

Echoing the reactions of 19 & 42.

What I see here is a victim of sexual assault in the act of being victimized. It is really sad. Why would you post a picture of a minor kissing an adult that we know raped her?

Posted by Papayas | May 28, 2008 11:58 PM

52, you would post these pictures for a very good reason: The people at this ranch in Texas have been on the professional victim media circuit - crying softly on the Today Show, recollecting tenderly on Good Morning America, talking about how they were just a Good Christian Community until the Godless Government Took Their Babies Away.

Pics like this show that there's a lot more to the FLDS than meets the eye. Before it was Warren Jeffs, it was his father, Rulon. This has been going on for quite some time.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | May 29, 2008 6:26 AM

@50 that's another good point - from what i know, polyamorous relationships are very focused on negotiation of roles and mutual respect, with all parties having an equal voice.

@51 so where are all the *polyandrous* families? i'd be curious to know if they ever involve 12 year old grooms.

Posted by gforce | May 29, 2008 8:31 AM

I don't think there are many (polyandrous situations) at all in human evolution. I've heard of a tribe in Africa and a couple of queens (royalty) that practice it but it is very rare in human society. As for "12 y/o grooms" unless you're Mary Kay LeTourneau who found hers in a classroom and is monagamous, one is isn't going to find an adult woman with a 12 y/o groom or grooms.
Again, very rare and as criminal as Warren Jeffs and his child bride. Although, it's curious to note that Warren Jeffs is in jail and MK LeTourneau is happily married to her now no longer a child groom.

Posted by lark | May 29, 2008 9:24 AM

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