The following is a series of letters from a man who came from a polygamist family May 2003
Topics: Health Care in Polygamist Families | Polygamist Endowment Information | I guess polygamy is just in my blood | Meet John Whitman Ray | Polygamist Prayer Methods
Health Care in Polygamist Families
Todays polygamists, those living primarily in Utah, Arizona, and various other surrounding areas, stretching even into Mexico and Canada, are gaining much notoriety because of the terrible abuses inherent to these societies. These polygamists, who base their practices on early Mormon belief, habitually force young girls below age eighteen into polygamous marriages with much older men. I have seen this with my own eyes. My own father, in 1974, at age 36, took as a plural wife a girl 16 years of age. It is laughable to see the impotence of state and local government when it comes to dealing with this particularly insidious form of child abuse. In the last 50 years, only one individual has been successfully prosecuted for committing this despicable act. This individual is Tom Green, the notorious Utah polygamist who was recently convicted of child rape. It is astounding to see that only one man has been the recipient of criminal justice when literally thousands of men are committing this very act routinely, with support of their community, and under the apparent indifference of law enforcement officials from the level of the common patrol officer to the Attorneys General of the states in which these acts take place. This form of child abuse is receiving some attention in the press, but this is not the only form of child abuse that routinely takes place in these societies. There are also dangerous medical and health practices that are routine to these Mormon-based polygamous societies. I would like to go into some detail about these practices that have resulted in the destruction of various childrens health, and even death.
In Mormon-based polygamous societies, there is a common mistrust of the modern medical industry. Large numbers of children born into these groups never receive immunizations of any kind. When I was a child growing up in one of these groups, I witnessed waves of destruction brought about by whooping cough. This disease ravaged the community I was living in. Fortunately, my parents had converted to this lifestyle when I was seven years of age, so I had previously been immunized. But many of my childhood friends became afflicted with this dreaded illness. Many infants who had contracted the disease battled impending death. I dont specifically remember any deaths taking place during this wave, which took place in Pinesdale, Montana during the period between 1974 and 1977, but the risk of this was very high. Adherents within these polygamous societies have an unhealthy mistrust of modern medicine, as I have mentioned, and it is amazing that I didnt see more health disasters take place than I did, but nevertheless, I have seen more than my share of misery as a result of this dangerously backward belief system.
Mormon-based polygamists, who refer to themselves as Fundamentalist Mormons, also practice their sacramental ceremonies a bit differently from the methods found in wards within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Typically, in an average non-polygamous LDS ward house, the water is distributed among the audience in small, individual cups. But in the Mormon Fundamentalist sacrament meetings the water is disbursed to the audience in large, one liter glasses. During the ceremony, each glass touches the lips of 40-50 people. During the ceremony, bread crumbs inevitably accumulate in the bottom of each glass until the last person gulps down the last of the water--bread crumbs and all. This practice provides a breeding ground for hepatitis, which frequently ravages entire congregations. Mormon-based polygamists are quite unable to deal with this disease. Indeed, many adherents seem ignorant even of simple hygienic practices, such as frequent hand washing, as methods by which to slow the spread of disease. To many, if not most of these people, a gamma globulin injection is out of the question, even unknown as a medical practice.
When I was eight years old, my older brother, who was twelve or thirteen at the time, suffered a serious accident. He was in the attic of a family who had volunteered to temporarily hold the belongings of another recently converted family, when he fell through a trap door, landing approximately twelve feet below. He received a massive concussion. He was taken to a bed in the house and the presiding apostle of the community was summoned. I was allowed into the room where my brother had been taken and I witnessed a horrifying scene. The apostle stood at the foot of the bed and instructed my parents as to how they might care for my brother, who was writhing in agony, delirious, and vomiting profusely. The apostle instructed my parents to hold my brother down and apply pressure to the swollen areas of his head. This seemed to bring about severe pain on the part of my brother and he struggled violently. They offered priesthood blessings as a means of treatment for his severe head injuries. This struggle went on for hours until my brother finally fell unconscious and completely exhausted. At no time during this ordeal did anyone call an ambulance, or take my brother to a hospital. Indeed, he was never seen by a medical doctor throughout the acute phase, or the ensuing recovery period.
My brother spent weeks in a darkened room after this accident. Even the weakest light brought severe pain to his eyes. He kept complaining of the ringing in his ears. He suffered immensely throughout this period. I have been profoundly affected by this traumatic event. But my brother seems to have sustained injuries that have had a lingering effect on him ever since. As an adult, I have spent countless hours contemplating this event, and I have also studied a bit about traumatic brain injury, and the lasting effects it can have on individuals who have suffered from it. My brothers life has been tragic ever since. He displays disturbing personality problems that I have since learned are common among people who suffered similar injuries as children. He lives a life of uncontrollable alcoholism, destructive self-centeredness, a seeming lack of conscience and many other severe and uncontrollable personality disorders. To this day, he has never received a proper medical evaluation, and this incident has fallen into the web of secrecy that surrounds the lives of Mormon-based polygamists.
The abuse that abounds in these polygamous communities is profound and extremely widespread. The public has only heard bits and pieces of information about these communities that have aptly been described as the American Taliban. Law enforcement has inexplicably ignored these communities who are also known to stockpile weapons. Many who are informed about the dangers of these polygamous societies have alleged that the potential dangers involved in law enforcement intervention would bring about a situation similar to what occurred several years ago in Waco, Texas. If the Mormon-based polygamists were pushed in a similar, inept manner, I testify that the Waco incident would seem like an independence day celebration in comparison. Mormon-based polygamous groups have been allowed to practice their abusive craft for over one hundred years. They will not submit to law enforcement easily. The potential for violence and loss of life is immense, but certainly not inevitable. The central power structure within these factions needs to be eliminated entirely, and swiftly. There are methods by which this can be achieved while incurring a minimal level of violence. It is imperative that minimal violence should be the goal if any action is to be taken against these offenders. The vast majority of the members of these groups are helpless women and children who are today in a very dangerous environment where indoctrination and isolation are a way of life. It is despicable that the communities of Colorado City, Arizona; Hildale, Utah; and Pinesdale, Montana are allowed to name their own law enforcement officers. In these communities, the offenders are the police. Under the present circumstances, these abusive environments flourish and grow steadily. The sooner the problems inherent to these polygamous communities are dealt with by legitimate law enforcement, the less potential for violent conflict, which will endanger the lives of many thousands of innocent children who are today suffering from abuse. Procrastination on the part of government officials can be blamed for the intensified gravity of the present situation. Refusal to take action immediately will only make the problem worse for these helpless children.
I wholeheartedly endorse Flora Jessop as an extremely competent expert in matters relating to Mormon-based polygamists. I urge all government officials to take this matter as most serious. Ms. Jessop possesses a great deal of expertise and is indispensable to the hope for these innocent children. I urge you all to take her words very seriously. The American people are dangerously ignorant of the crimes taking place in these communities, and Flora Jessop can provide the information that is so lacking. Please consider taking immediate action for the sake of eliminating the enormous suffering that is taking place right before our eyes.
Troy A. Bowles
Polygamist Endowment Information
To my knowledge, temple clothing used by Mormon Fundamentalists is identical to that used in the LDS Church. I could be wrong on this. When I was a child, my parents bought their long garments from the LDS Church, although they had been excommunicated in 1973. In about 1980, the LDS Church stopped making long garments, however, and Owen Allred appointed various relief society members as authorized crafters of these garments. It is possible that some Fundies buy their temple clothing from the LDS Church, but I do know that there are women in the Allred group (always women for this work) have been authorized to make temple clothing. I am not aware of any alteration to the patterns used in making temple clothing within the LDS Church since the nineteenth century, but this may be something interesting to verify. Excellent question! They do call these costumes "temple clothes". My memory of them is that they were white, with a green apron embossed with fig leaf designs, just like LDS temple clothes. Like all LDS funerals I have attended, the deceased in a Fundamentalist funeral is displayed in the casket in temple clothing, without the hat.
I'm not sure how the other large Fundamentalist groups operate regarding temples, but the Allred group has an "endowment house" in which they carry out their temple ceremonies. It is on the same piece of property as the RCA (Rulon Clark Allred) building in Bluffdale, Utah. The RCA building is where the Salt Lake area congregation assembles for sacrament meeting and various other functions which include dances and even basketball games. The RCA building was completed in the late 1970's and is visible from I-15, from the far right southbound lane, immediately before the interstate starts to descend into Utah County. The endowment house was formerly occupied by the caretakers of the RCA building, and was converted in the early 1980's and dedicated to the function it now serves. It is situated to the immediate west of the RCA building. The glass windows of this structure have been boarded shut from the inside. I would imagine that the other large polygamous groups have similar structures. Flora Jessop probably can tell of how the FLDS group handles endowments.
The LDS Church, as you know, has eliminated significant portions of the endowment ceremony. The Mormon Fundamentalists pride themselves in their insistance on not changing anything, and their endowment ceremony is much longer than that performed in LDS temples. I have not personally taken part in the ceremony, but I asked my mother many questions about it as I was growing up. She told me that the endowment ceremony had been some eight hours long during the time of Brigham Young. I assume from this that the Fundamentalist endowment ceremony is also very long, like this. Although the Mormon Fundamentalists pride themselves in their resistance to change, I have learned from my own research that their lifestyles and beliefs are actually unchanged from the time of Brigham Young, and not necessarily from the time of Joseph Smith. Whether they realize it or not, their version of Mormonism has also been altered since the time of Smith. It was during the period surrounding the Manifesto, and the ensuing two decades that they broke away from the LDS Church. They are a culture that appears to be frozen in time from that period. I wish I could provide more details about their endowment ceremonies, but I broke away before I had the opportunity to participate. Interestingly, when my parents first converted to Mormon Fundamentalism in 1973 (they had previously been very active LDS, married in the SL temple), the Allred group did not have an endowment house. But my parents switched immediately to the long garment style upon their conversion. During this period, the Allred group was in a bit of a quandary since they did not possess an endowment house. Many adults did not wear garments, having not been endowed, so their construction of an endowment house in the early 1980's represented a very important development. Owen Allred apparently received a "revelation" during this period in which he was instructed to build the endowment house. I noticed that the older members wore the garments, even though they had never been members of the LDS Church, and therefore had no previous access to a temple. They had received their endowments before the "split" in the 1950's, when the Allred group broke away from the FLDS over a leadership dispute.
Also interesting, and part of this discussion, is the practice in which members of the Allred group always kneel facing the Salt Lake temple when praying. They believe that the Salt Lake temple is the most important temple within Mormondom although, for obvious reasons, they are not allowed to enter. During family prayers among the Fundamentalists, frequently included is an appeal that the "temple doors will be opened to all worthy and righteous saints". They believe that Joseph Smith will return someday with Jesus Christ, and that the Salt Lake temple will be returned to the Fundamentalists, as they see themselves as the correct caretakers of the "keys to the priesthood".
Finally, you ask how I acquired such knowledge of the secretive Mormon Fundamentalists. I was there. I was seven years old when my parents joined the Allred group and were subsequently excommunicated from the LDS Church. I was hyper-curious as a child, and a voracious reader, as I am now. I also have an extremely good memory. When I was growing up I asked my mother endless questions about this new faction of Mormonism we had become a part of. My parents had great hopes that I would grow up to be a Fundamentalist scholar and they gave me numerous books to read. I read many books by Ogden Kraut and other polygamous authors. I never forgot anything I studied at that young age, and many years later as an adult, I started studying the forbidden (correct) history of Mormonism. In my adult study I have found much information that I have been able to compare to what I learned when I was growing up in polygamous society and I have been able to correlate much of this forbidden information with what I learned as a child. I really have a unique perspective now, having grown up first in the LDS Church, and later in Mormon Fundamentalist society in a family where my father had four wives.
I guess polygamy is just in my blood.
My ggg-grandfather was Levi Ward Hancock. He was born in 1803 in Massachusetts. He notes in his autobiography that his family was "puritan stock," and indeed they were. The Hancock family came from England in the 1630's. It's most notable member was John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independance and first governor of Massachusetts. But enough about them.
Levi Hancock joined the Mormon Church in 1830, the year the church was officially organized. He was single at the time of his conversion, which came about after hearing a sermon given by Parley P. Pratt. His parents and siblings also converted to Mormonism. He met Joseph Smith in early 1831 and grew quite close to him. It seems that in 1833 they agreed to an "exchange of women". Compton writes about this in his first chapter of <i>In Sacred Loneliness</i>. Levi Hancock was interested in a young woman who lived with Smith named Clarissa Reed. She was seventeen. Smith was interested in Levi's niece; sixteen year old Fanny Alger. The arrangement was made, and Fanny's parents were thrilled to have this connection with "the Prophet". Levi Hancock married Clarissa Reed and in April 1834, their first child was born. They named him Mosiah Lyman Hancock. He was my gg-grandfather. Mosiah Hancock became well known later as a prolific missionary. He also married six women. Mosiah Hancock's daughter Clarissa married my g-grandfather, Earnest Richard Bowles. The rest is history, and it is a history flavored to the present with controversy. Compton credits Mosiah Hancock's autobiography as being the best source of information we have on Fanny Alger.
Both Levi Hancock and his son Mosiah left brief autobiographies (both online). Levi's story breaks off in an incomplete sentence in about 1836, but Mosiah's takes off from there and the story of these two men is pretty fascinating. While I was reading these stories I fit the events in with some things I had learned about my family as a child. There is a tradition among the descendants of Clarissa Reed that she was one of Joseph Smith's polyandrous wives. This has been difficult to prove, but there are several of her descendants who insist that this was a fact. As a child I heard my father say that there was a possibility that Mosiah Hancock was actually the SON of Joseph Smith! My father was a great admirer of Mosiah Hancock and he did a bit of research on this ancestor and found some people believing that this was so. One day I heard my father tell my mother that "if this is true, our children have righteous blood in their veins!" At first I didn't grasp the enormity of the situation. I was about eight years old and I had never heard of Smith's polyandry. I remember thinking that I was disappointed that we no longer had Revolutionary War heroes in our ancestry. I didn't want to be descended from Joseph Smith even at that age. I had a great admiration for John Hancock (still do), and I was not happy with Mormonism. I asked my mother about this a couple of years later, and she dismissed it abruptly, saying only that there was a man in the LDS Church named Mckay Smith who believed this. I sensed that she didn't want to discuss it, so I dropped the subject, never mentioning it to anyone in the family again. But this event is very significant, because it reveals that although polyandry is not practiced in today's large polygamous groups, at least some of them acknowledge that Smith practiced it. It tells me that MY parents acknowledged it! This is in sharp contrast to the LDS Church, where it is never discussed, and probably hasn't been practiced since Smith's time. (Disclaimer: I cannot state with authority that none of today's polygamists engage in polyandry. With these people, anything is possible.)
I don't know if I'll ever know the truth about whether or not my gg-grandfather was really Joseph Smith's son, through a polyandrous union. I was a lot happier with my puritan ancestors!
Meet John Whitman Ray
Those of you who are familiar with my story will remember John Ray, the presiding apostle in the small polygamous community known as Pinesdale, Montana. Ray was a young favorite of Rulon Allred in the early 1970's. Ray was by far Allred's youngest apostle, and possibly the most radical. I first met him in 1973 when he was 38 years old. I've never known anyone in my life more charismatic than Ray. He converted my parents to Mormon Fundamentalism, then took them to his Montana community. He was one of the few high ranking priesthood members who actively pursued converts; and he found them in abundance in Utah. Several of his converts would become his wives. When I knew him he had 12 wives and about 65 children, including step-children. His was known to persuade LDS women to leave their husbands to join his harem.
Ray was obsessed with alternative medicines and holistic practices. His followers regarded him as a miraculous healer. They believed that he received divine inspiration at will. When my older brother suffered a severe head injury, Ray instructed my parents not to take him to the hospital, but instead to use his own brand of quackery which involved applying direct pressure to the most painful areas of the injury. My brother was completely delirious and had to be held down by several adults while my parents applied pressure to the wounds. My brother was in agony and was vomiting all over the bed and the people who were holding him down. Consecrated olive oil was applied liberally and priesthood blessings were given (of course). Ray instructed them to do this for at least 3-4 hours before my brother finally collapsed and was taken home. I have described this scene many times on this board, because it has been in my mind for over 25 years. My brother has, since that incident displayed several very severe personality disorders. He is irrationally self centered and immature. Today he is 41 years old. He has been dangerously alcoholic since his teenage years. He has also abused cocaine to a level that almost killed him.
John Ray left a trail of devoted admirers everywhere he went. He also left behind numerous enemies. I am one of them. Ray was always involved in some sort of sceme and he defrauded his converts out of every cent they had in order to finance his aggressive path to fame. My own parents gave him thousands of dollars that they had managed to obtain from selling their Salt Lake house. Ray had something cooking in Hawaii in 1977, and legend has it that he left behind his huge polygamous family for the love of a single woman he met there. But it goes even deeper than this. Ray apostatized and was never seen again by the polygamists. His whole family was left to fend for themselves and most of his wives married into other polygamous families. One of these women became my father's third wife. She came into our family with three of Ray's children.
After Ray's apostacy, my parents returned to Salt Lake City to join the much larger part of the Allred group. Pinesdale is still a polygamous town, hidden away at the western edge of the Bitterroot Valley, in Montana. It has since been presided over by an apostle named Morris Jessop, who is a much more stable and predictable individual than John Ray, who was a veritable mad genius.
It has been very difficult to track John Ray since 1977, that is, until the advent of the Internet. It seems he grew very fond of Hawaii and he spent several years living there while he carved out a new life for himself. He left the United States permanently in 1989. When I knew him, Ray seemed to have impressive academic credentials. He was a mathematician and reportedly had been awarded a Doctorate of Science at Lafayette University. He truly was an intellectual heavy-weight, although his sense of logic was missing a few key elements. Over the years he collected several correspondance-school doctorates and added a few questionable honorifics to his name. He even is alleged to have been awarded a knighthood, although I have unable to determine who awarded him this honor. He carried the obligatory "Sir" in front of his name along with this recognition. For all I know, he was knighted by Queen Lateefa. But in his later life he seems to have charmed even more suckers than during his fling as one of Rulon Allred's Apostles. He was awarded the dubious degree of Doctor of Naturopathy in his post-polygamous life. He developed a system of personal health that carried all of his signature quackeries from the days in Pinesdale. He called this system <i>Body Electronics</i> and it involved a specialized diet routine and his own bizarre version of acupressure. He gave numerous seminars and made several video-tape lectures.
John Ray died in April, 2001 in New Zealand. He was visiting the home of a friend at the time of his death at age 66 from a heart ailment. He had been residing in Queensland, Australia at the time of his death. At his request he was cremated and his remains were scattered at sea. He left behind a very large following of people who believed he was the most highly skilled healer on the planet. He also left behind numerous children who saw him for the last time in 1977. He had a profound effect on the lives of literally thousands of people. He left an impact everywhere he went.
Meet John Whitman Ray.: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~d-w-m/jwr.htm
Polygamist Prayer Methods
Although they are completely restricted from entering any LDS
temple (polygamists are excommunicated), Mormon Fundamentalists still believe that they
are the legitimate priesthood authority and are therefore the rightful caretakers. They
kneel facing the Salt Lake temple because that is the most important temple in Mormondom
(at least to them). Mormon Fundamentalists have very rigid prayer practices.
When I was living in Pinesdale, Montana, every morning at 6 AM a prayer session was held in the schoolhouse. Proper prayer protocol was strictly observed in these sessions. Polygamist Mormons have a strange obsession with kneeling upright, as opposed to the more casual method commonly seen in the LDS Church where members frequently kneel in a more comfortable manner by sitting back on their lower legs and ankles. It seems to me that the polygamists believe that if one is too comfortable, then one isn't doing it correctly.
In these early-morning prayer sessions, it was required that all present repeat the words of the prayer. One person is chosen to lead the prayer, and the prayer is given one sentence at a time. The prayer leader then waits for everyone to repeat each sentence before moving on. This made for long, uncomfortable prayer sessions. Often these sessions lasted for fifteen minutes or more. One's lower legs often become numb after such a length of time. I can only imagine the discomfort experienced by pregnant women, who are ever present in any polygamist gathering. Oh, how I loathed these early morning prayer sessions!
Most Mormon Fundamentalists adhere to these methods even in family prayer at home. When I was engaged to my wife, we were visiting my parent's home and my father called us together for prayer. When everyone was present, he instructed us to kneel facing the temple. My wife was stunned by this, and she frantically started to whisper to me, inquiring as to which temple we were required to face. I told her to just do what everyone else was doing. My older brother's girlfriend was also present and was equally dumbstruck. She simply started laughing. This took place over 16 years ago, and now I refuse to participate when my family does this. They do not push the issue, and for many years now they have not engaged in this prayer method when I am there. Instead they pray while gathered around the dining room table, in the manner that is usually seen in an average LDS home. My family has been aware of my strong opposition to their religious practices and now they alter their behavior when I am present. I think they do this in hopes that I won't be driven away. My two children, the oldest of whom is ten, have never seen my family pray in the properly prescribed manner. Mormon Fundamentalists are instructed to kneel in prayer, facing the Salt Lake Temple three times each day.
I suspect that these methods of prayer were practiced in the early LDS Church, around the time of Brigham Young, but I have not been able to verify this.
Mormon polygamists scoff at LDS members for their tendency to utter prayers in a way that indicates that the words are memorized. Every Mormon in Utah is familiar with the rapid utterance of the blessing on the food. But even though they may scoff at this practice, inevitably Mormon Fundamentalists engage in this behavior themselves, offering certain appeals that are always present such as: "Please hasten the day in which the temple doors will be opened to all worthy and righteous saints" and "please hasten the day in which the blood of the prophets is avenged." Of course these pleas are rarely uttered in proper English, and they tend to become arbitrary word strings that only contain the key words. This indicates that the person offering the prayer is not concentrating deeply enough, and often during sacrament meeting someone will get up and complain indignantly about this. Fundamentalists also nit-pick over certain choices of words uttered in prayer. For example, many shun the word "We come before thee..." Instead they say "We present ourselves unto thee..." The claim is that NOBODY comes before God. They also don't like it when someone refers to prayer as saying the prayer, but instead they refer to is as asking the prayer. Many believe that it is offensive to stray from this protocol.
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