Nonfiction — eBook. Chicago Review Press, 2011. 304 pgs. Free download.
Polygamy and fundamentalist religions are two of my own interests so I had to read it when I found this book available for download from my public library. Having lived in Texas during the YFZ Ranch raid, this book was particularly interesting because of its examination of just how hands-off the police and public officials are when it comes to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
For example, Weyermann charges that former Arizona Governor and now Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano let the FLDS go unchecked for years over worries that action against the group would ruin her carrier and turn conservative, Christian voters against her. Arizona isn’t the only state that turns a blind eye; judges, lawyers, and jurists in St. George, Utah are charged with are charged with being sympathetic to their Fundamentalist brethren.
There is also the issue of freedom of the press as the two largest newspapers in Utah, one directly published by the LDS Church, are both distributed by the same company. I’m not familiar with what “distribution” means but Weyermann charges that both papers present polygamy in a positive light because of the influence of the LDS Church.
This book, however, is difficult to follow as it swings from investigation of tax-invasion to underage marriages to the Lost Boys. Focusing on tax-invasion and monetary extortion may not be nearly as “flashy” as underage marriages but it is one thing that has been repeatedly overlooked by other authors and journalists, particularly the fact that Jeffs used public positions (cops, councilmen, firemen) to solidify his control of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. Weyermann also relies heavily upon memoirs written by ex-FLDS members (some of which have climbed the bestsellers list and others I had read for myself) rather than interviewing these people for herself.
Those who practice polygamy under the FLDS and other Mormon and non-Mormon religious groups say that outlawing the practice violates their First Amendment rights. The general public often falls under the sway of this argument, which is why the 1953 raid on Short Creek and the raid on the YFZ Ranch have often ended with the public turning against public officials who act against this group. But Weyermann argues that the sexual abuse of children, fraud, and tax evasion on a massive scale cannot be considered religious freedoms. Her book is not the best on the way this group works but it certainly is the most persuasive.