The latest issue of National Geographic arrived in my mailbox yesterday. And, behold, it doth have this story on "The Polygamists: A sect that split from the Mormons allows multiple wives, expels 'lost boys,' and heeds a jailed prophet." It's a well-written, thoughtful piece.
I'm particularly interested in the power that leader Warren Jeffs (now incarcerated) had on the community. Jeffs claimed to receive direct instructions from God on even the most mundane aspects of his life. He received messages as he slept. According to the essay Jeffs diary, confiscated by authorities, has this entry: "The Lord directed that I go to the sun tanning salon and get sun tanned more evenly on their suntanning beds." I see a great short story here.
A choice passage:
Members of the faith describe the life that the Jessops and other founding families have built as idyllic, one in which old-fashioned devotion and neighborly cooperation are emphasized and children are raised in a wholesome environment free of television and junk food and social pressures. Critics, on the other hand, see the FLDS as an isolated cult whose members, worn down by rigid social control, display a disturbing fealty to one man, the prophet Warren Jeffs—who has claimed to be God's mouthpiece on Earth.
To spend time in Hildale and Colorado City is to come away with a more nuanced view. That view is revealed gradually, however, due to the insular nature of the community. Many of the oversize homes are tucked behind high walls, both to give children a safe place to play and to shield families from gawking Gentiles, as non-Mormons are known. Most residents avoid contact with strangers. National Geographic was given access to the community only on the approval of the church leadership, in consultation with the imprisoned Warren Jeffs.